An Olhão family, along with a Spanish couple, were arrested in Cadiz (Spain) as they were prepared to do a deal over 2,000 dried seahorses – worth up to “€20,000 on the Asian market”.
The dead sea creatures are believed to have been harvested from the Algarve’s Ria Formosa, reports Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The arrests took place in November and all five now face charges for crimes “against flora and fauna” and the “illegal trafficking of endangered species”, said the paper.
Police sources are quoted as saying this was the largest seizure of seahorses yet by Spain’s Guardia Civil.
The Portuguese family – a mother, father and son – had 2,133 of the marine creatures distributed in three separate bags when they were “caught in flagrante”, says El Pais, adding that the seahorses were almost certainly destined for forward sale to China, where they are much prized for their purported aphrodisiac properties in ‘traditional medicine’.
Biologist Miquel Planas Oliver of the CSIS (Superior Council for Scientific Investigation) told El Pais that Ria Formosa estuary has some of the largest reserves of seahorses – though this is now dwindling alarmingly (click here).
Oliver said estimates point to as many as 25 million seahorses captured every year for sale to the Chinese market, to the point that the species, in some parts of the world, is now in danger of extinction.
PHOTO: By David Fleetham: “Bags full of dried seahorses for sale at a traditional medicine shop in Guangzhou, China”