Seahorses Under Threat Because Of Human Sex Treatment

Used in Chinese medicine for their impotence healing properties, endangered seahorse species are facing further decline due to over-harvesting.

The seahorse trade is illegal under global trade laws, but in Hong Kong's cramped street markets their dried corpses spill out of glass jars and plastic boxes.

Seahorses are rampant in Chinese medicine as they're said to possess more than 200 therapeutic properties and have been used as a natural Viagra for thousands of years.

According to recent data, the Asian city is the world's largest trading hub for the animal, and is behind two thirds of all seahorse imports from 2004 to 2017.

Dried seahorses for sale in a street market. Getty Images.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates about 2.2 million seahorses were imported into Hong Kong in a year

The popularity of seahorses as medicine is growing in Asian countries like Taiwan, Indonesia and China, according to the WWF.

In the ancient medicine, dried seahorses are mixed with herbs and boiled as a tea, said to heal impotence, premature ejaculation and infertility.

Seahorses are also an ancient remedy to address baldness, asthma, arthritis and ageing.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia would not comment to 10 daily about the species use in Chinese medicine.

"The Chinese Medicine Board of Australia strongly supports the moral and legal obligations to protect endangered species. The Board strictly adheres to the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora," the spokesperson said.

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Getty Images.

Tooni Mahto is a marine biologist and campaigner at the Australian Maine Conservation Society.

She told 10 daily that several Australian seahorse species are under threat.

"There are thought to be about 70 different species of seahorse - about 30 of which we have in Australia - and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature says several are threatened with extinction," said  Mahto.

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Getty Images.

The species mate for life, with male seahorses possessing the rare ability to get pregnant.

Harvesting young and undersized seahorses has driven some species into local extinction, with seahorses unable to mature and breed.

"Illegal trade of any wildlife is an issue...habitat loss is a big issue. Seahorses live in sea grass beds and these have been decimated around the globe through coastal development," Mahto told 10 daily. 

According to Project Seahorse, 11 seahorse populations have decreased by between 30 to 50 percent over the past 15 years.

"But the truth is that there just isn’t enough information about many of the species, which is why the IUCN lists some as “data deficient” - that just means we don’t have enough information to be confident that they’re doing okay," Mahto said.

Contact Eden on Twitter @edengillespie