Peruvian marines have captured a ship carrying a massive illicit haul: more than 12.3 million illegally caught seahorses worth over $6 million, destined for Asian markets.
The vessel named “Adonay” was intercepted about 200 miles off the Pacific coastal city of Callao Monday.
When they boarded the ship, authorities found 55 boxes filled with the dehydrated bodies of seahorses in a load that weighed over 2,300 pounds. The small marine fish have a value of over $6 million and were expected to be sold in the international market.
The four crew members, three Peruvians and one Venezuelan, were detained and will face from three to five years in prison.
The Peruvian National Police, alongside the General Directorate of Captaincy and the Coast Guard, along with the Ministry of Production, had been closely monitoring the extraction of the seahorses from coastal waters for days before detaining the vessel and its contents.
The authorities declared that they will donate the captured seahorses that showed signs of dehydration and dryness to research groups and local universities.
Seahorses are a protected species in the South American nation, and Peru has banned their fishing, transporting, and trade in 2004.
There are about 55 seahorse species, and 11 of them are classified as “Vulnerable” and “Endangered” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
Their illegal extraction from fragile marine zones harms their species and the other sensitive marine habitats.
In the late 1980s, China and Vietnam introduced market reforms, and the demand for marine specimens including seahorses and sharks boomed since then, as fishermen started depleting marine populations from West Africa to Southeast Asia.
CNN reported that the markets of Hong Kong are rich in dried seahorses, which are believed to have “Viagra-like” powers.
Dried seahorses retail from US$600 – 3000 per kilogram, with larger, paler and smoother animals commanding the highest prices. In terms of value based on weight, seahorses retail for more than the price of silver and almost that of gold in Asia.
According to The World Wildlife Fund, seahorses are believed to offer more than 200 therapeutic properties and have been used for over two millennia to treat various illnesses including asthma, impotence, arteriosclerosis, incontinence, and difficult childbirth.
Therefore, due to its medicinal powers, the seahorse is sold in Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries.
Yet, if harvested undersized, seahorses have no chance to mature and breed, and their overexploitation has driven some seahorse species into local extinction.
Seahorses live in almost every sea and ocean around the world. They are one of the most majestic creatures on our planet and are renowned for their unique morphological features.
The seahorse is a blend of a host of diverse creatures. They are said to have a head of a horse, a snout of an aardvark, eyes of a chameleon, pouch of a kangaroo and the tail of a monkey.
Among their numerous characteristics, they also have an amazing camouflage ability which enables them to change color to match their habitat, helping them fend off predators.
Sadly, their extraordinary qualities make them in such high demand in many different international trades like the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Curio Trade and Aquarium trade.