Endangered animals at sea: when tradition kills

From Apulia to China, because of superstitions and beliefs, many animals face extinction.


The matter, already widely debated on the Internet and social networks in recent days is this, five decapitated turtles were found on the beaches of Puglia.

Needless to say, to us at the Giornale della Vela and Medplastic, our sea defense awareness project, the story touched us and not a little and made us think about the impact of senseless popular beliefs on land and sea animals, almost all of which are now on the brink of extinction. On the sidelines of the Apulian turtles, the highest form of Italic becerism, the index finger should be pointed at a big, huge culprit, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In the West it is too little linked to the problem of poaching of large African mammals (primarily rhinos and elephants) and almost never associated with the increasingly unrestrained depletion of marine wildlife.

We will look at just a few species and some data to paint this cruel phenomenon. Let’s start with what happened in our seas.

Endangered animals – Turtles

Some sea turtles were found decapitated on Apulian beaches around the Bari coast. Some fishermen are held responsible, who once they found the reptiles in their nets, in order to ward off bad luck in fishing, thought it appropriate to inflict the animals as what was described above. Decapitating them. Just remember that more than 40000 sea turtles die each year in the Mediterranean because of humans.

Endangered Animals – Seahorses

Every year 20 million seahorses are caught to meet the demand of the TCM. In China, the Philippines and Indonesia first and foremost. Seahorses are ingested via pills or are found dried for grating; they are believed to have aphrodisiac effects.

“Chinese medicine stores are full of bags containing seahorses, but also other marine animals,” says Gary Stokes, the Southeast Asia director of Sea Shepherd Global. There are bags with shark fins and dead starfish. But when I see hundreds of seahorses, it breaks my heart.”



Seventy-three million sharks are killed in the cruelest manners each year, mainly for their dorsal fins, which for TCM are a natural tonic and increase appetite, as well as obviously being aphrodisiacs. From Hong Kong alone pass 10.5 tons of fins that have a value per kg of 900 euros. The “fishermen” operating in this industry cut off the fins and throw the fish back into the sea still alive; youtube is full of videos about it. Studies conducted several years ago showed how baseless such beliefs are.

endangered animals at sea

Endangered animals at sea – Mantle:

One of the most amazing animals on earth is being decimated to get the gills and gillspines. Beliefs attribute them to promote blood circulation, heal a range of diseases such as infertility or certain types of cancer. The figures for this market in China alone move more than $11 million. As if that were not enough The manta and mobula fisheries have become big business because in addition to the trade for the alleged beneficial properties, there is the market for the skins, used for handbags and shoes, and the sale of the cartilage, which, mixed with shark fins, provides a cheaper version of the famous soup. Manta and mobula fishing is widespread now in all places where they are found such as Indonesia, Mozambique, India, Tanzania, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru, partly because of the ease of capture (with nets or spears).


Our examples end here; in a second installment if you like we will discuss the slaughter of dolphins in Japan and those of right whales in Iceland and other northern islands.

This is the only world we have so we remind everyone to take action to defend it in your cities as well, if for example in some restaurant or ethinic store see some of the above mentioned “merchandise” do not hesitate to call the police, marketing of the above is a crime!

Support Medplastic too, defend the sea!

About Medplastic

Time to Take Action is the slogan of Medplastic, the project of the Journal of Sailing and Powerboats to safeguard the Mediterranean. Join the MedPlastic Team Facebook group, there you can post news, projects, photodenunciations, videos. Then participate in the NO Plastic Instagram contest (by sending a photo to our instagram inbox – @giornaledellavela – or on the Medplastic Team group, as all the authors of the photos we show you here did): we will award the best testimonials at the 2019 VELAFestival. In addition, if you have structured projects to propose that you think would be useful to the “cause,” please send an email to savethemed@gmail.com. www.medplastic.org



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