Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Spotted seahorses are the most valuable species in the traditional Chinese medicine trade (TCM) due to their large size, smooth texture, and pale complexion when dried (Project Seahorse et al, 2003). According to traders, TCM books, and recent pharmacological studies, seahorses can regulate urinogenital, reproductive, nervous, endocrine, and immune systems as well as mimic certain hormones related to aging, tumor development, and fatigue (Zhang et al., 2003). None of these uses, however, have been tested. The global consumption of seahorses for medicinal purposes during the year 2001 alone has been estimated at 25 million seahorses or 70 metric tones (“Project Seahorse”, 2003). ("The biology of seahorses", 2003; Foster, Marsden, and Vincent, 2003; Zhang et al., 2003)
Spotted seahorses are very popular among aquatic collectors as a favorite aquarium fish (Lally and Hough, 1999). Over 51 nations and territories are involved in buying and selling H. kuda and its relatives (Job et al., 2002). The largest known exporters of seahorses are Thailand, Vietnam, India, and the Philippines, and the bulk of seahorses are fished from the Indo-Pacific region (Xu et al., 2003). (Job et al., 2002; Zhang et al., 2003)
Seahorses are fascinating to many people and diving trips to see seahorses, as well as other fish, are important in marine ecotourism.
- Job, S., H. Do, J. Meeuwig, H. Hall. 2002. Culturing the oceanic seahorse, Hippocampus kuda. Aquaculture, 214: 333-341.
- Zhang, N., B. Xu, C. Mou, W. Yang, J. Wei, L. Lu, J. Zhu, J. Du, X. Wu, L. Ye, Z. Fu, Y. Lu, J. Lin, Z. Sun, J. Su, M. Dong, A. Xu. 2003. Molecular profile of the unique species of traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese seahorse (Hippocampus kuda Bleeker). Federation of European Biochemical Socieites Letters, 550: 124-134.