These creatures may not look beautiful but they are indeed very valuable. On average, a kilo can cost $3,000 USD. These 'fancy' looking creatures are the 'Sea Cucumbers'. There are 1,250 different species of these strange looking creatures. Sea cucumbers are found on the seafloor worldwide.
Sea cucumbers are considered a delicacy in Asia for centuries. Once only the wealthiest class could eat these as a nutritious high-protein treat. But in the 1980s growing middle class in China started to consume the luxury. Today, they're typically dried and packaged in ornate boxes, then given as gifts and served on special occasions. One has to pay around $200 for a plate of these delicacy.
They're quite strange animals. They don't have any limbs, they don't have any eyes. They have a mouth and they have an anus and a whole bunch of organs in between. Price of a sea cucumber depends on its look. Spikier, unusual-looking means more expensive. A species of Japanese sea cucumber is the most expensive one - it can cost up to $3,500 a kilo.
Sea cucumbers contain high levels of a chemical called fucosylated glycosaminoglycan in their skin. This chemical is used across Asia to treat joint problems like arthritis for centuries. Recently in Europe, people are using it to treat certain cancers and to reduce blood clots. From 1996 to 2011, the number of countries exporting sea cucumbers exploded from 35 to 83. This also makes 7 of the sea cucumber species go endangered. Few countries are experiencing 95% drop in availability in the last 2 years.
So, why not farm sea cucumbers and leave the wild ones alone? Well, it's easier said than done, since many larvae die before reaching maturity. For those that do survive, take two to six years to grow to a marketable size. Though few fisheries are trying to grow sea cucumbers artificially and to equalize the time and investment, they started with Japanese sea cucumber.