Seahorses may seem small in stature but are big business. Their prevalence in Chinese medicine, which claims they can treat asthma, arteriosclerosis and incontinence as well as being powerful aphrodisiacs, drives their trade heavily.
Foster and her colleagues conducted a survey with traders in Hong Kong, the world’s largest Dried seahorse market. Their researchers discovered that most stocks came from countries with export bans such as India, Malaysia and mainland China.
What is the Trade?
Trading involves exchanging goods and services between nations, states or people; taking place at local, state, national and international levels depending on demand. Trade involves the buying and selling of products for profit with companies striving to achieve maximum return at reduced production costs. Trade has significantly contributed to economic development worldwide while benefiting many. Unfortunately however, lobbying efforts by some businesses for lower tariffs may harm domestic markets of their competitors while simultaneously expanding market shares through lobbying for market expansion by lobbying lower tariffs may prove troublesome as businesses lobby for an advantaged market position within their domestic markets by lobbying against tariff increases by lobbying lower tariffs on competitive domestic markets of competitors thereby expanding market share further than expected or competitors domestic markets can expand further.
What are the Solutions?
Seahorses differ from sharks and other high-profile marine species in that their trade involves three distinct markets. Dried medicinal products, ornamental display creatures and curiosities all make up seahorse trade, making it more challenging to reduce demand through enforcement measures or shift markets towards sustainable sources, such as captive-bred seahorses.
Global regulations exist to protect seahorses, such as export restrictions under CITES and national laws. Unfortunately, an illegal and unrecorded trade of wild-caught seahorses persists: fishermen unwittingly catch them when using nonselective fishing gear and there exists a vast demand for Traditional Chinese Medicine where seahorses are sold as treatments for ailments like asthma, arthritis, infertility and erectile dysfunction.
UBC researchers conducted a survey with 189 traders in Hong Kong (the world’s leading importer of dried seahorses) about their stock purchases in 2016 and 2017. According to official CITES data, many wild seahorse exports from Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines China Indonesia Malaysia were likely illegally brought into Hong Kong without clearance; country species bans would stop this illicit trade.
What is the Future?
CITES requires that countries which sign its treaty to limit the export of wild species for trade to levels which support wildlife populations; yet many continue to engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) trading of seahorses.
Researchers investigating traders in Hong Kong discovered that 95% of dried seahorses available for purchase came from countries subject to CITES trade bans – such as Thailand, mainland China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. This shows that attempts at controlling wild sourcing have proven futile.
But there is hope: Ocean Rider has developed environmentally responsible rearing methods that could apply to other marine species like Banggai cardinalfish and orchid dottybacks that are threatened by unsustainable fishing practices. Implementation of such techniques has the potential to significantly decrease wild exploitation of these stunning marine animals.
Seahorses are being harvested faster than they can reproduce and their numbers are rapidly declining worldwide. The international community has made progress to protect these beautiful creatures; they now appear on the endangered list and trade restrictions are in place via an agreement among 183 countries known as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).