Photo credit: Peruvian Ministry of Production
Peruvian marines seized a ship some 200 miles off the Pacific coast that was carrying around 12.3 million dried seahorses, with an export value to Asia in excess of $6 million.
According to authorities in Peru, the Adonay had been followed for several days before it was intercepted by the Coast Guard. And when the marines stormed the vessel, they discovered 55 boxes weighing more than 2,300lbs which were crammed full of seahorses, harvested illegally from the Pacific Ocean. As per authorities the haul of seahorses represents the largest on record.
The four crew members on the Adonay, three Peruvian males and a man from Venezuela, were detained and will face up to five years in prison each.
The fishing, transportation and commercialisation of seahorses has been prohibited in Peru since August 2004, but there is a big market for the threatened fish, which is still a primary source of Chinese traditional medicine.
Since China and Vietnam introduced market reforms in the late 1980s, the demand for marine specimens including seahorses and sharks boomed as fishermen sought their fortunes in seas around the world, depleting marine populations from West Africa to Southeast Asia.
According to the World Wildlife Fund reports, “Seahorses are believed to have over 200 therapeutic properties and with powers to rival those of ginseng. They have been used for over 2000 years to treat a range of illnesses including asthma, arteriosclerosis, incontinence, difficult childbirth and impotence.
The popularity of seahorses as medicine is driving the widespread sale of the animal in Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong and other Asian countries. Harvesting undersized seahorses leaves them with no chance to mature and breed. Worse, overexploitation has driven some seahorse species into local extinction.”
The Peruvian authorities have announced that they will donate the captured seahorses to research groups and local universities.