Pearly nautilus may get extra legal protection

Nautilus pompilinus, the pelagic marine mollusc with one of the oldest animal lineages on the planet, may get an extra global legal protection soon.

The palm-sized adult animal, which could live up to 20 years in ocean depths, may soon be included in the Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna (CITES). The CITES authorities have sought the views of their Indian counterparts for determining the qualification of the species.

Marine fisheries experts have recommended that the species shall be listed considering the rarity of the animal and its poor regeneration capacity. The species is commonly known as pearly nautilus considering the pearly nacre on its external shell. The animal has a chambered shell with limited mobility. It’s commonly found in ocean depths of 700 metres, explained a scientific evaluation paper.

Earlier researches have pointed out that the “low egg number, late maturity, long gestation and long life span of the Nautilus make the species vulnerable.” The shell of the animal is traded widely across the world though there is no targeted fishery in India. However, there are reports of some targeted catch from Indonesia and Philippines. At times, marine researchers have reported the accidental catch of the bright orange banded species during mid-water trawling, pointed out a researcher.

The species has been accorded legal protection by including it in the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The hunting or possession of the animals included in the Schedule is a punishable offence in the country. Some animals, which die a natural death may float in water and land in shores, which are picked up by collectors. The fancy look and the shiny lustre make it a collector’s item. The shells are believed to be fetch high price in trade. There are reports of the shells, which are washed ashore, collected and clandestinely traded.

The species has relatively small population and are vulnerable to fisheries and also anthropogenic activities. Yet, no scientific data is available on its population in India. The species has not been currently assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, says a scientific report.

The inclusion of the animal in the CITES list would ensure a global regulation in its trade. It would also extend the legal cover globally for the species, which is considered as rare link to the evolutionary history of animals, he said.

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