A Reprieve For One of Phuket’s Favourite Critters?
CITES has announced the Thai governments decision to suspend the export of seahorses after not being able to meet the CITES obligations for the trade in seahorses, Thailand decided to stop issuing export permits earlier this year in lieu of obtaining a sustainable solution and protecting the wild population. It’s a welcome move and hopefully a chance for one of diving’s most loved animals to increase in numbers. Thailand is the worlds largest exporter of seahorses mostly for the (yeah, you’ve guessed it) Chinese traditional medicine market.
The Distressing Figures
150 Million a year! That’s a conservative estimate based on legal export figures, the actual figure is probably much higher. Thailand is responsible for three quarters of these exports, the vast majority being wild caught. These figures are clearly not sustainable and the suggestion is that seahorses could become extinct in the wild within the next 20 to 30 years. The problem is getting worse as more wealth amongst CTM (Chinese Traditional Medicine) users allows them to forego the trips to traditional markets and buy commercially prepared pills that contain undersized seahorses that have not reached breeding age.
Most of the wild caught seahorses in Thailand are not ‘targeted’ but are caught in bottom trawling nets that scoop up everything in there path. With the world marine stocks being depleted it’s getting harder and harder for fisherman in many countries to target particular species and a take anything we can attitude is becoming more prevalent. So we can only hope that the fisherman will throw them back and not take the seahorses from the nets and simply hang them out in the sun until they die and then desiccate.
None! Is what science says but the particular large branch of witch doctoring that is CTM claims dried seahorses can help cure; kidney ailments, respiratory ailments, circulatory problems, joint pain, incontinence and impotence, good for the facial skin and a restorative detox/cleanser. Wow! You’d think an animal with so much magical power would be immortal but no, the longest life span of a seahorse is just four years which makes us suspect that science has got it right on this one.
Around 1 million seahorses are exported for the aquarium trade every year although these are mostly from captive bred populations. Another 1 million are used for curios and souvenirs, this is a place where you can step in. Please don’t buy seahorse souvenirs…
For some greats facts and up to date conservation news on seahorses go to The Seahorse Trust
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