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China's hunger for sea cucumbers

A sea cucumber collector displays two sea cucumbers in Dublin, January 28, 2014. As evening falls over Sierra Leone's Banana Island archipelago, bats stream from their beach-side roosts to circle in their thousands over the jungle village of Dublin. Below them a struggle is playing out over an unexpected commodity - the lowly sea cucumber, a fleshy, sausage-shaped creature that scavenges for food on the seabed. While the Banana...more

A sea cucumber collector displays two sea cucumbers in Dublin, January 28, 2014. As evening falls over Sierra Leone's Banana Island archipelago, bats stream from their beach-side roosts to circle in their thousands over the jungle village of Dublin. Below them a struggle is playing out over an unexpected commodity - the lowly sea cucumber, a fleshy, sausage-shaped creature that scavenges for food on the seabed. While the Banana Islanders have no use for sea cucumbers, in China they are prized for their medicinal properties and as a natural aphrodisiac. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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A sea cucumber diver attempts to tie two canoes together during a sea cucumber collecting trip near Dublin, January 28, 2014. Sea cucumber diving is a lucrative option compared to the meager earnings offered by a fishing industry hard hit by illegal and unregulated foreign trawlers. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

A sea cucumber diver attempts to tie two canoes together during a sea cucumber collecting trip near Dublin, January 28, 2014. Sea cucumber diving is a lucrative option compared to the meager earnings offered by a fishing industry hard hit by illegal and unregulated foreign trawlers. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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A Chinese man helps local residents carry an under-construction boat that will be used in sea cucumber fishing in Dublin, March 21, 2014. Growing demand for sea cucumbers - currently estimated at around 10,000 tonnes per year – has depleted stocks around the world, leading traders to search ever further afield for new harvesting grounds. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

A Chinese man helps local residents carry an under-construction boat that will be used in sea cucumber fishing in Dublin, March 21, 2014. Growing demand for sea cucumbers - currently estimated at around 10,000 tonnes per year – has depleted stocks around the world, leading traders to search ever further afield for new harvesting grounds. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Mohamed, a sea cucumber diver, returns to the boat after free-diving for sea cucumbers near Dublin, Sierra Leone, January 28, 2014. Diving must take place in the dark, when the slug-like echinoderms emerge from their daytime resting places. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

Mohamed, a sea cucumber diver, returns to the boat after free-diving for sea cucumbers near Dublin, Sierra Leone, January 28, 2014. Diving must take place in the dark, when the slug-like echinoderms emerge from their daytime resting places. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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A house is seen in Dublin, March 21, 2014. The sandy streets of Dublin village, once trodden by slaves destined for the Atlantic trade, reinforce the point that very little of the sea cucumber wealth has remained on Banana Island. Decaying clapboard houses, built in the distinctive style of the returning slaves who arrived in Sierra Leone from the late 18th century, lie scattered through the bush. The only street lights are rusting...more

A house is seen in Dublin, March 21, 2014. The sandy streets of Dublin village, once trodden by slaves destined for the Atlantic trade, reinforce the point that very little of the sea cucumber wealth has remained on Banana Island. Decaying clapboard houses, built in the distinctive style of the returning slaves who arrived in Sierra Leone from the late 18th century, lie scattered through the bush. The only street lights are rusting wrought-iron relics left behind by early Portuguese settlers. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Matthew Ray boils sea cucumbers to preserve them after a collecting trip near Dublin, January 28, 2014. The going price is 150,000 Leones ($35) for a 7-kg (15-pound) bucket. How much they are resold for is not clear, but by the time they reach the wholesale markets of Guangzhou, dried sea cucumbers similar to the Sierra Leone variety can fetch as much as $133 a kg. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

Matthew Ray boils sea cucumbers to preserve them after a collecting trip near Dublin, January 28, 2014. The going price is 150,000 Leones ($35) for a 7-kg (15-pound) bucket. How much they are resold for is not clear, but by the time they reach the wholesale markets of Guangzhou, dried sea cucumbers similar to the Sierra Leone variety can fetch as much as $133 a kg. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Men carry an under-construction boat that will be used in sea-cucumber fishing in Dublin, March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

Men carry an under-construction boat that will be used in sea-cucumber fishing in Dublin, March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Alex, a sea cucumber collector, paddles a canoe during a sea cucumber collecting expedition near Dublin, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

Alex, a sea cucumber collector, paddles a canoe during a sea cucumber collecting expedition near Dublin, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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A cargo ship crosses behind Kroo Bay slum in Freetown, January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

A cargo ship crosses behind Kroo Bay slum in Freetown, January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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A sea cucumber collector rolls a joint on his way to the cucumber fields near Dublin, January 28, 2014. The work is arduous and repetitive. Many of the men use marijuana and other drugs to ease their burden. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

A sea cucumber collector rolls a joint on his way to the cucumber fields near Dublin, January 28, 2014. The work is arduous and repetitive. Many of the men use marijuana and other drugs to ease their burden. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Moses Taylor, the oldest man on Sierra Leone's Banana Islands and a former chief, reclines at his home in Dublin, January 28, 2014. Taylor recalls the Chinese investors' promises with bitterness. "They said they would build water pumps in the street, they said they would build street lights," he said, sprawled in a flower bed smoking cheap cigarettes. "They said they would build community centers. But they did nothing for us."...more

Moses Taylor, the oldest man on Sierra Leone's Banana Islands and a former chief, reclines at his home in Dublin, January 28, 2014. Taylor recalls the Chinese investors' promises with bitterness. "They said they would build water pumps in the street, they said they would build street lights," he said, sprawled in a flower bed smoking cheap cigarettes. "They said they would build community centers. But they did nothing for us." REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Sea cucumber collectors bail out a canoe after it was partially capsized near Dublin, January 28, 2014. On one recent trip a man intoxicated with ethoxylated alcohol, Tomadol, capsized a boat, prompting panicked bailing to keep the team afloat. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

Sea cucumber collectors bail out a canoe after it was partially capsized near Dublin, January 28, 2014. On one recent trip a man intoxicated with ethoxylated alcohol, Tomadol, capsized a boat, prompting panicked bailing to keep the team afloat. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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A woman stands next to a rusted streetlight installed by Portuguese settlers hundreds of years ago in Dublin, March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

A woman stands next to a rusted streetlight installed by Portuguese settlers hundreds of years ago in Dublin, March 21, 2014. REUTERS/Tommy Trenchard

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Sea cucumbers are seen at the biggest seafood market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province February 26, 2014. The going price in Dublin is 150,000 Leones ($35) for a 7-kg (15-pound) bucket. How much they are resold for is not clear but Selina Stead, professor of Marine Governance and Environmental Science at Newcastle University, said by the time they reach the wholesale markets of Guangzhou, dried sea cucumbers similar to the Sierra...more

Sea cucumbers are seen at the biggest seafood market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province February 26, 2014. The going price in Dublin is 150,000 Leones ($35) for a 7-kg (15-pound) bucket. How much they are resold for is not clear but Selina Stead, professor of Marine Governance and Environmental Science at Newcastle University, said by the time they reach the wholesale markets of Guangzhou, dried sea cucumbers similar to the Sierra Leone variety can fetch as much as $133 a kg. REUTERS/Alex Lee

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Sea cucumbers are seen at the biggest seafood market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

Sea cucumbers are seen at the biggest seafood market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

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Sea cucumbers are seen at the biggest seafood market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

Sea cucumbers are seen at the biggest seafood market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Alex Lee

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