Seahorses: The other Illegal traffic between Mexico and China

Seahorses: The other Illegal traffic between Mexico and China

A new investigation revealed what is the role of Mexico in the international traffic of seahorses, Marine species highly coveted in China for its alleged ability to cure certain ailments.

About 100,000 seahorses were illegally trafficked between Mexico and China between 2001 and 2019, almost all bound for Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai; according to the latest report Mongabay, site dedicated to independent environmental journalism.

Seahorses are listed as species Subject to Special Protection under the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and the General Law of Wildlife, but they are also prohibited in article 420 of the Federal Criminal Code and have international protection in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Exporting these species without the proper permits in Mexico implies a penalty of up to nine years in jail. However, far from being reduced, the problem has escalated in the country.

The horses are usually trafficked by sea, air and by parcel

The horses are usually trafficked by sea, air and by parcel.

And it is that during the period 2001 to 2019, the traffickers tried to remove 95,589 seahorses illegally, while the rest went for local Mexican sale, according to a record prepared by Chinese Dialogue. Of these, 64% were destined for Chinese cities.

Two are the routes of seahorse trafficking from Mexico to mainland China. The first goes direct to Beijing and Shanghai and the second goes through Hong Kong.

The horses are usually trafficked by sea, air and by parcel. They are often moved between shipments of other dry seafood or in personal luggage, or other difficult-to-detect routes.

They can be easily found in Hong Kong’s dry seafood stores. They are high-priced products due to limited supply. The price of 100 grams of dried seahorses varies between USD 120 and 580 (between 900 and 1,500 Hong Kong dollars), depending on size and origin.

The research explains that seahorses are generally trapped in the large nets of shrimp boats, where they are frozen and then dehydrated, in order to hide them easily and preserve them for a long time.

Traditional medicine (TCM) views seahorses as a medicine that can help strengthen the kidney and balance the Yin-Yang (Photo: HK01 / Mongabay)

Traditional medicine (TCM) views seahorses as a medicine that can help strengthen the kidney and balance the Yin-Yang. (Photo: HK01/Mongabay)

In China, traditional medicine (TCM) views seahorses as a medicine that can help strengthen the kidney and balance the Yin-Yang, with the aim of treating male impotence and female infertility. Normally ground and broth are consumed.

However, although Mexico has strict laws against wildlife trafficking, those caught with dehydrated seahorses seem to get very lenient penalties. A case mentioned in the report, of the Chinese citizen Zhen Daquan In 2018, he says that he left after paying a fine and with the prohibition of re-entry to Mexico, without any prison sentence involved.

In 2018, Political Animal reported that dehydrated dry horses could be bought even online, on the well-known online sales platform Free market.

Ben Oakley
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