Tens Of Millions Of These Animals Are Being Snatched From The Ocean Every Year

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Animals of all kinds can be found in traditional medicine shops, especially in China. But one of the most disturbing is the thousands upon thousands of dried seahorses filling bags and bins.

 

seahorses_medicine_shops_china_3Source: Gary Stokes/Sea Shepherd

 

Amanda Vincent of Project Seahorse estimates that tens of millions of seahorses are taken from the ocean every year. She told The Dodo: 

 

There are no official global figures on [seahorse] fisheries, but from our fieldwork, we think in just 21 countries that we’ve been able to assess … about 37 million a year are being removed from the wild. That number may turn out to be conservative.

 

seahorses_medicine_shops_china_2Source: Gary Stokes/Sea Shepherd

 

This is particularly concerning considering of the 40 different sub-species, many of them are endangered or threatened.

 

Regulations on the matter don’t seem to be changing much for the actual trade. Despite bans, there are whole shops dedicated to selling just seahorses.

 

seahorses_medicine_shops_china_4Source: Gary Stokes/Sea Shepherd

 

Gary Stokes, the Southeast Asia Director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, explained to The Dodo:

 

The traditional Chinese medicine shops are full of sacks and sacks and sacks of pretty much everything from the oceans, but seahorses are certainly a part of it. […] They’re tiny, so imagine filling up a grocery shopping bag – how many would you get in there? And if you imagine a shop that’s maybe 8 meters by 8 meters [26 feet by 26 feet], and they’re just stacked up on all of the shelves, the volume is just mind-blowing.

 

To make it even more disturbing, taking seahorses from their families can greatly disrupt their social structures as males and females typically mate for life, with the males carrying the babies.

 

Sadly, even if conservationists manage to make some progress about their sale, many of them are captured in trawling nets or other non-specific fishing nets. So even if they aren’t caught specifically to be sold, they get trapped and killed.

 

seahorses_medicine_shops_china_1Source: Gary Stokes/Sea Shepherd

 

But Vincent is confident that with a proper education, people will see the value that these tiny creatures bring to our world and will work to protect them:

 

Seahorses are in trouble … and I hope they can be good storytellers for all the small, obscure species that nobody pays much attention to at all. I think what we all need to do is to feel a responsibility for the ocean and to engage with the ocean and talk about it a lot. It can be difficult because most people think of the ocean as a swimming pool of water, but in fact it’s full of the most extraordinary life, and seahorses are part of what’s wonderful.

 

seahorses_medicine_shops_china_5Source: Shutterstock

 

If you would like to help protect these incredible animals, you can make a donation to Project Seahorse here.

 

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