THOUSANDS of illegally captured seahorses destined for China’s traditional medicine market have been seized by Spanish authorities in Malaga a Spanish Marine biologist has revealed.
According to Miquel Planas, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Research (CSIC) in Vigo, the seahorse species faces threats from climate change, overfishing, and unlawful captures which accumulate over sixty million individuals annually, predominantly targeted for traditional Asian medicine.
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As stated by Planas, unauthorized seahorse captures happen in areas with notable populations, like Peru and southern Portugal, where criminal networks are involved. In a recent incident, authorities have intercepted in Malaga thousands of these seahorse specimens destined for China.
To protect seahorse populations, the Oceanidas NGO has launched the Save Little Big Seahorse project.
This initiative employs a network of marine observers, including over 2,000 divers, to safeguard seahorse colonies, including those found in the Mediterranean region.
Spain is home to two seahorse species, ‘Hippocampus hippocampus’ and ‘Hippocampus guttulatus,’ primarily found at shallow depths.
However, despite their decline over the past fifty years, seahorses are not classified as threatened in Spain’s official species list due to insufficient data.
Seahorses, part of the syngnathid family, have males caring for eggs and embryos. They have a lifespan of four to five years and reproduce between spring and autumn.
Seahorses’ unique vertical swimming trait aids in camouflage, enabling them to mimic and elude predators, setting them apart as the only fish to exhibit this behaviour.