Saving the seahorse from the pet shop and Viagra set
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Inq7.net, Agence France-Presse
HANDUMON, Bohol, Philippines - Nights spell danger for the tiny seahorse, the colorful but naive denizen of the Philippines' coral reefs.
Here on the southern edge of Danajon Bank, fishermen dragging tiny boats lit with gas-fed lamps wade through the mangrove-shrouded coast into the shallows hunting for the exotic fish whose camouflage is easily exposed by the light.
The lantern boats are the basic infrastructure of a multi-billion-dollar global trade in seahorses, which end up in curio shops or aquariums across Europe and North America.
But most are dried and powdered as an organic Viagra or impotence cure for the booming traditional Chinese medicine market.
While humans do not eat seahorse, its gradual disappearance has mirrored the degradation of the Danajon Bank, the only double-barrier coral reef in Southeast Asia and a key sanctuary of the species.
"Seahorses are indicator species," said Allen Mondido of Project Seahorse, an international marine conservation campaign that has adopted the uniquely shaped fish, genus Hippocampus, as its "flagship species."