London: Seahorses could face extinction in 10 years due to illegal use in Chinese medicine market, conservationists fear.
An undercover research by a marine biologist has found at least 150 million of the fragile creatures are now killed to make its products every year in China - seven times the official figure, the `Daily Mail` reported.
The researcher, who posed as potential supplier to gain access to seahorse wholesalers, clinics and health stores in southern China said, "We are not talking about a slow decline here, this is an absolute decimation of this unique creature which has been with us for millions of years."
"At this rate, it will be wiped out in between 10 and 20 years," marine biologist Kealan Doyle who went undercover to film these illegal activities was quoted as saying by the paper.
Around 70 countries are now catching and selling seahorses to the Chinese medicine market, where they have been used in for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
Seahorses have been used in Chinese medicine as they are thought to cure baldness and kidney infection among other things.
Previously Chinese medicine has attracted acrimony for its use of rhino horns, tiger bones and bear bile.
Seahorses are easy pickings as they are the ocean`s worst swimmers. Males barely move more than a square metre their entire lives, and rely on the females, which swim much further, to seek them out.
"We desperately need to reduce demand by raising awareness in China, but farming them, like salmon, will reduce the pressure on them, and people can make a living out of it," Doyle said.