From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Ambergris
Mains level : Not Much
In the past few weeks, there have been two cases where the Mumbai Police has arrested five persons trying to sell Ambergris or whale vomit.
What is Ambergris?
- Ambergris, French for grey amber, 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 it 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.
Is it Ambergris valuable?
- This excretion is so valuable it is referred to as floating gold.
- As per the latest estimates given by Mumbai Police, 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 believed to be in high demand in countries like Dubai that have a large perfume market. Ancient Egyptians used it as incense.
- It is also believed to be used in some traditional medicines.
Why are the laws on Ambergris?
- Due to its high value, Ambergris has been a target for smugglers especially in coastal areas.
- There have been several cases where the coastline of Gujarat has been used for such smuggling.
- Since the sperm whale is a protected species, hunting of the whale is not allowed.
- However, smugglers are known to have illegally targeted the fish in order to obtain the valuable Ambergris from its stomach.
- However, Ambergris is produced only by an estimated one per cent of sperm whales.