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Smuggling of Ambergris

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    30th Jun, 2021

In the past few weeks, the Mumbai Police has arrested five persons trying to sell Ambergris or whale vomit.

Context

In the past few weeks, the Mumbai Police has arrested five persons trying to sell Ambergris or whale vomit.

About

What is Ambergris?

  • Ambergris is generally referred to as whale vomit.
  • It is a solid waxy substance that floats around the surface of the water body and at times settles on the coast.
  • A sperm whale eats several thousand squid beaks a day.
    • Occasionally, a beak makes its way to the whale’s stomach and into its looping convoluted intestines where it becomes ambergris through a complex process, and may ultimately be excreted by the whale.

How valuable is this whale vomit?

  • This excretion is so valuable it is referred to as floating gold.
  • As per the latest estimates, 1 kg of ambergris is worth Rs 1 crore in the international market.
  • The reason for its high cost is its use in the perfume market, especially to create fragrances like musk.
  • It is also believed to be used in some traditional medicines.

Laws on Ambergris

  • Due to its high value, Ambergris has been a target for smugglers, especially in coastal areas.
  • Since the sperm whale is a protected species, hunting the whale is not allowed.
  • However, smugglers are known to have illegally targeted the fish to obtain the valuable Ambergris from its stomach.
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