Continuing my series of posts this week that picks up the story of seahorses where my book, Poseidon’s Steed left off, here is an update on the international trade in seahorses:
A study by Vincent Nijman showed that between 1998-2007, around 16 million seahorses were exported from Southeast Asia (along with millions of other wild animals). Over 90% of them came from Thailand, and over half were destined for Hong Kong. Most of them were taken from the wild and were traded dead and dried to make into traditional medicines.
This is a huge underestimate of the total trade since these are only the seahorse transactions that were officially reported to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Before 2004, reporting seahorse trade was purely voluntary and even now there seems to be a lot of unreported trade.
And don’t forget, this is just Southeast Asia – admittedly, this is a major source of seahorses, but not the only place they are traded from.
Nijman writes about an illegal consignment of 1-2 million seahorses picked up in Poland that came from Indonesia – a country that reports virtually no official seahorse trade.
So it seems we still can’t fully comprehend the scale and impacts of the international trade in seahorses. Until we get a good idea of where seahorses are being caught and who is buying them, conservation efforts will continue to face major hurdles.