Would you fish sea horses?

We reached Madridejos in the wee hours, when fishermen unload their fresh catches on the beach. The giant blue crabs and obese squids got the kids full attention for a good 5 minutes, until they discovered The Bucket.

At first I really thought they were toys.

I had never seen let alone touch a sea horse before. The bucket was filled with hundreds of color mixed candies, shining red, bright yellow, lollypop pink. Beautiful? Not really when you know that they are endangered species protected by law. The fishermen know that too well, but “Chinese pay a lot of money for them Ma’am. They make medicine with dried sea horses“.


The fisherman makes just a few hundred pesos whereas the middleman puts a big mark up on the cost of the seahorse and makes a large profit. The seahorses are then sold to markets or factories for preparation into medicines notably to cure impotence!

Ms. Attila, the Dogmatic of the Family,  was shocked when I told her that the fishermen she’s been playing with could go to jail if the police knew they had caught sea horses. I explained her why those fishes were protected, and why we must obey the law. And for the first time Ms. Little Chief of Justice turned into a lawyer: But Mum they can’t go to jail. Who will make money for the family? Can’t they sell the fishes at a higher price? Can’t the Dad find another job? Maybe the mother can find a job where she can bring all her children? Why can’t Chinese take other animals?

Endless questions. What matters most? Respecting the law or feeding your family? What is fairness and what is justice? Who should be condemned?

See with your eyes and with your heart before you judge. Nothing is perfectly right nor wrong. Still, it drives me crazy to realize again that money can buy so much, even the precious heritage of a country… But what would you do if you were the sole breadwinner of a family of 10? With a job that can’t even guarantee that you’ll bring money tomorrow if the weather is bad.

Education, education! I so wish all the kids we saw this morning could go to school, the longest the best, to never need to dive in the middle of the night for sea horses – people believe that children are good “reef hunters” because their small body enable them to dive deeper. May they always have what they need and finally have the luxury to plan beyond the day.

(In response to WPC on Heritage)


19 thoughts on “Would you fish sea horses?

  1. We have a long way to go. 😦 I hope we eventually have a good social services structure that can take care of those in most need and at the same time avoid developing in certain people the mentality of just relying on welfare.

    1. That’s a huge challenge indeed ! But at least totally free and compulsory education would be a great start. There were mountains of shells there, no hard to guess how most kids are kept busy …
      I thought of you this week in Bantayan, the weather was so generous with you, I almost turned into an island girl who will certainly miss your incredible beaches 😉
      Now if I were a politician here, I would also create “environmental guards” to stop the crazy littering everwhere . And this place would be a real paradise !

  2. Education must come first.
    When people stop believing that mashed up animals and animal parts cure impotence, the demand for these beautiful creatures will stop.
    And the sea horse fishermen will have to find another job.

    1. Totally agree with you ! Hope there’s a way to stop the demand or at least find decent alternatives for those fishermen …

  3. So sad. In Nicaragua poachers would catch endangered turtles to make soup and eat their eggs. The wildlife protection society turned things around by hiring the poachers to be the protectors of the turtles. The population of turtles went up dramatically in a few years.

    In Laos we visited a bear sanctuary where bears had bedn rescued from death for a certain gland…again be.ieved to be a cure for this or that.

    Humans need to stop exploiting wildlife for their own benefit.


    1. I like this Nicaragua idea 🙂 the fishermen I met were sorry to have to fish those sea horses . They were the ones to tell me it was illegal. Wish they had other options …
      In France last month a rhino was killed in a zoo ! Snd his horn taken ! Totally insane 😦

  4. When money is on one side of an equation, it’s very tough for the other side to win. I like the solution Peta mentions for Nicaragua and the turtles – somehow keep the money there but change what is getting paid for. Easier said than done in most situations, I’m sure! (They are oddly beautiful little creatures!)

    1. And so much money !!! For a local fisherman those sea horses are gold 😦 there must be a solution and I m sure some local NGO have thought of it.
      But again, so much money at stake involves such a big network of traffickers !

  5. The yellow ones do look like toys! Definitely not beautiful, though. So sad that these beautiful creatures are being caught illegally. Oh man, and so sad that young children are the ones doing the catching.

    You’re right, nothing is perfectly right or wrong–especially in this crazy, complex world we live in–but I hope for a future where seahorses will be kept in the sea and children will be sent to school in the mornings instead of the water. Not only are they not receiving an education, but what risky business for such youngsters to be partaking in!

    1. It is super risky indeed, let alone the ear and lungs issues they will develop .. I know there are lots of NGOs denouncing this kind of child labour, but without alternative, not much will perdure I am afraid .. Forbidding is not enough .

  6. As usual, it is easy to just condemn but harder to get to the root of the problem and actually fix it. I’ll be honest, that photo makes a bit sick to my stomach, when I think of these endangered species and what they are being used for. That’s being judgmental too, but that was my honest reaction, nausea.

    1. Same for me! So totally ridiculous ! If only we could make them believe that ISIS skin is the best cure for impotency there would not no terrorist in no time ..

  7. What a great post! 🙂 It’s true, everything is a lot more complex than it seems, and not so easy to fix. Education is a great way to start. That picture broke my heart!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, it is always easier to judge and condemn than to understand. Ahimsa works in so many ways, right? 😉

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