Who knew that dried endangered seahorse powder works as the perfect aphrodisiac and cure for asthma? Just a pinch of the stuff is equivalent to popping a Viagra and taking a hit off an inhaler at the same time. It is important to make sure that the product is endangered; do not be fooled by imitators boasting a ‘vulnerable’ status.
But, the market for ground seahorse medicine took a hit yesterday when Peruvian Police seized more than 16,000 dried seahorses before they could be exported illegally to Asian countries. The warm waters off the northern Peruvian coast make the perfect breeding ground for slow moving, yet ironically horse-shaped sea creatures.
Authorities say the shipment weighed 160 kilos. At $6,000 per kilo, the cargo could have been worth nearly $1 million at street value. However, other sources put the total retail price at around $250,000 – a figure based on values from the 1990s, when the underground market was first publicized in detail.
Last year, law enforcement seized a total of 20 tons of dried seahorse throughout the world, with half a ton found in Peru. The extensive trade is estimated to be a $20 million annual industry, with Hong Kong as the hub for sales to mainland China, Singapore, Korea, and Japan. However, Australia and the United States also import hundreds of thousands of dried seahorses every year.
Seahorse medicine has been around since the Ming Dynasty began raising the creatures for consumption in the 14th century. But in the late 20th century, the animals were declared endangered due to over collection and the industry moved underground. All specimens used for medicinal purposes come from the genus Hippocampus and vary in size for 10 to 300 millimeters or 3 to 25 grams.
Though we rarely hear about this illicit market, busts such as the one in Peru reveal the extensive black markets outside the world of narcotics. Profitable illegality pervades all types of products throughout the world and no seahorse or snow leopard is safe.