Customs officials in Vietnam's northern port city of Hai Phong found Friday more than a ton of dried seahorses smuggled from Peru in disguise of cattle skin.
The container has been sealed for investigation. One ton of seahorses may have around 300,000 individuals in average weight, and a pair of them can fetch up to $20 in retail prices.
Customs investigators found the shipment was delivered by a Vietnamese vessel and arrived at a Hai Phong port in late January. The bill of lading described the content as horse and donkey skin, naming a Hai Phong-based company as the recipient, which has sent a notice to reject the cargo.
Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to which Vietnam is a signatory, dried seahorse is not prohibited from trade, but any transaction via Vietnam has to be approved by the CITES committee and Vietnam’s agriculture ministry.
Scientists have not been able to determine the conservation status of seahorse, due to the lack of data on the sizes of the various seahorse populations as well as other issues such as how many seahorses are dying or born each year.
But some species have been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable and some are feared to have been extinct. In addition to their use in traditional medicine and as aphrodisiacs, seahorses are sold to tourists as souvenirs, according to conservationists.