They’re one of the ocean’s most mystical and magical creatures, loved by children and studied by researchers, but seahorses are on the brink of extinction, according to one Vancouver biologist who has dedicated her life to protecting the fish.
“We risk knocking out their ecological function that holds our world together,” explains Amanda Vincent, a professor and creator of Project Seahorse at the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries. “We risk knocking out eventually the species, even if a few little individuals persist in some pockets of the world, that is not how we should be curating and showing good stewardship of our planet.
“We have to stop this decline way before we reach extinction.”
READ MORE: UBC study helps protect seahorses
Vincent was integral in creating the 2002 landmark legislation that regulates the export of seahorses in 182 countries. Some of the 44 different seahorse species are endangered and protected under the Convention on International Trade.
Seahorses are often plucked from their natural habitat through bottom trawling and sold.
“They don’t fare well in a home aquarium and they there are alternative forms of medicine. And realistically, you don’t need a dead fish hanging from your keychain either,” adds Vincent.
Dried seahorse is one ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine to treat health issues ranging from asthma to impotence and thyroid disorders.
Buying seahorse is legal as long as it comes from a country without an export ban, but it’s definitely not easy to find — and has a hefty price tag. A dose runs 1-3 grams and costs roughly $2,000 a kilogram.