PREHENSILE TALES FROM THE REEF (2): HIPPOCAMPI
It is a statistical fact that no one in the world – not even the meanest despot or cruellest tyrant – fails to love seahorses. It would be fair to add that in certain parts of the world, some people love them too much. In more than 65 countries. To the tune of an estimated 150 million a year that are used in the ‘traditional medicine’ trade. An attrition rate that is unsustainable in the long or even the medium term – with the bleak consequence that it won’t be long before people must look elsewhere for their source for Genital Tonic Pills.
Medicinal use – of empirically vague benefit to its enthusiasts – is joined by the aquarium trade in accounting for the removal of very large numbers of seahorses from their accustomed surroundings. At least these creatures live on (rather than being dried out alive), though research suggests that the survival rate of seahorses in captivity is low.
Do you sometimes hanker for a plastic brooch or paperweight with a tiny seahorse embalmed inside it? It would be good to resist the temptation to buy such things in seaside shops or online. Your little specimen will be one of a million or so souvenir seahorses sold each year, alongside seashells, starfish, sponges and (protected) corals.
As you contemplate your purchase, you may be reassured to find that the product is labelled ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘responsibly sourced’ or ‘from a sustainable source’. You can make up your own: ‘lovingly harvested from the bluest oceans’, maybe. In the words of the SEAHORSE TRUST:
“Nothing could be further from the truth; there is nothing sustainable about this exploitation of the seas. You can make change by not buying them. If there was no market there would be no trade.”
USES FOR SEAHORSES: MEDICINE OR (WITH SCORPIONS) STREET FOOD
RELATED POSTS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
Credits: Adam Rees / Scuba Works for more stunning photos; Seahorse Trust for material; Wiki & open source for the random thumbnails
I can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy a dried seahorse or seahorse pill. Truly a wonder of the seas that looks so magical in its natural habitat!
The trade in what we might call bush medicine (or even quack medicine) is massive in some parts of the world, and often involves what we might consider to be rare or threatened species.The rarity and consequent cost probably results in greater demand at higher prices… a perfect commercial circle. Culinary use is another controversial area – don’t even look up about shark fins… RH
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I saw shark fins on a documentary once and was saddened by the needless suffering and waste. Sometimes humans are not very clever.
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Hey RH! I had definitely seen seahorse products in my travels but I had no idea they had such a terrible impact on seahorse populations. I’m glad I never bought them but am saddened that they are so easily found. Seahorses are best admired in their natural habitat and not on a brooch or as (somewhat dubious) medication.
Hi Farah, that’s interesting to hear your experience. I think many individuals have seen them for sale but understandably attached little or no importance. It’s only when the worldwide picture is examined that the massive scale of the trade is exposed. Happily in some places, shops have proved cooperative in ceasing to stock seahorse curios, but I suspect that is a drop in the ocean… so to speak.