Traditional Medicine Trade

The Traditional Medicine Trade


Every year a staggering 150 million plus seahorses are used in the traditional medicine trade.  This is just not sustainable, they could be extinct in the wild within the next 20 to 30 years unless we address the problems facing them – and we can sort this problem out but time is fast running out.

Seahorses and other creatures (land and sea) are used for supposed cures for many ailments; however scientific research shows there is no basis for any of the claims made in the traditional medicine trade that seahorses can cure ailments.

The problem has got worse in the last 15 to 20 years as the users of natural cures, such as seahorses, have got wealthier, so they no longer go to traditional markets and buy seahorses to take home and make their own medicines. These days, commercially prepared seahorse pills are sold to save time; however, these pills contain undersized seahorses that have not had a chance to grow to maturity and breed.

Unsustainable fishing


Unsustainable fishing practices are killing our oceans. Added to this, 90% of wild-caught male seahorses that were mature, were pregnant and so it is not just one animal that dies but hundreds of babies (fry) as well. Instead of holding the male seahorses in a sea pen and giving them a chance to give birth these pregnant animals are taken, killed and sold. It is thought that pregnant male seahorses help with impotence. There are 65 to 85 countries participating in the traditional medicine trade and new countries are being added every year.  In addition,  when a country’s resources have been depleted, new countries are seeking to take their place. The death of a seahorse to be used in the TCT is not pleasant; it is caught from the sea and hung in the sun until it dies, where it desiccates as it wriggles in its death. Once it is dead and dried it is sold by the indigenous fisher to a middleman. The fisher makes just a few cents whereas the middleman puts a big markup on the cost of the seahorse and makes a large profit. The seahorses are then sold to markets or factories for preparation into medicines.

 The Aquarium Trade


Seahorses are not the only species used in the traditional medicine trade, the list is endless BUT the result is the same – depletion and eradication of the natural world. The aquarium trade also needs renovation with certain policies.  Every year 1 million wild-caught seahorses were being caught for the home aquarium trade, with very few surviving more than a few weeks; slowly through education, this number has dropped considerably and now captive breeding is rapidly reducing this number by conservation through cultivation. Aside from being a protected species, these striking fish are the ultimate feeding challenge, requiring the finest water quality — which is proving to be a huge dilemma for aquariums. Also, being very sensitive creatures, flash photography can damage seahorses and change their nature, so making sure they have the correct environment with little or no harassment is hard to juggle in busy tourist attractions.

The Curio Trade


The curio trade is still a major problem worldwide were in excess of 1 million seahorses are collected as mementos of seaside visits. It is not just seahorses that are sold as so-called environmentally-friendly products: seashells, starfish, sponges and even highly-protected corals are still sold in tacky seaside shops, often labelled as ‘from a sustainable source’. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is nothing sustainable about this exploitation of the seas.  You can make change by not buying them. If there was no market there would be no trade.

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