Fisheries Department cannot stop trading in sea horses

The Fisheries Department cannot stop the sale of skewered grilled sea horses in Pattaya and, at best, can warn the traders because sea horses are not protected species in Thailand although import and export of the marine species are banned.

The above comment was made by Mrs Umaporn Pimonbutr, deputy director-general of the Fisheries Department, in response to a question raised by a Thai PBS reporter regarding the sale of skewered grilled sea horses at Si Park floating market in Pattaya.

After being alerted by a tourist about the sea horse trade, a Thai PBS reporter went to a seafood stall in the floating market where skewered grilled squid and sea horse were put on sale with the grilled sea horse being priced at 150 baht apiece.

The staff owner told Thai PBS that the sea horse was real and it was popular mostly among Chinese tourists.

The stall attracted the interest of several tourists who took pictures of the grilled sea horses.

Mrs Umaporn said that sea horses were listed in the Second List of CITES Convention, meaning that import and export of the species are banned. In Thailand, she admitted that there is a loophole which makes it possible for the trade in sea horses because it is not regarded as a protected species.

She admitted, however, that she was puzzled how a sea horse which is so small could be eaten, but she said that she heard sea horse was regarded as a medicine with aphrodisiac quality.

The deputy director-general said she would send officials to Pattaya to investigate, adding that the most the officials could do was to warn the traders.

At the 67th CITES meeting in South Africa in 2016, Thailand was removed from the list of countries under review regarding trade in sea horses after the country temporarily suspended export of the species.