A Pattaya Floating Market gift shop was ordered closed after seahorses were seen offered as snacks.
Photos of barbecued seahorses selling for 150 baht each were posted online by horrified tourists. People questioned whether sale of the animals was legal, prompting an investigation by park manager Wichai Thanetsanurak, who closed the shop and voided its lease.
Shopkeeper Paisri Worawong, 54, later was questioned by the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.
Seahorses currently are not protected under endangered species laws, which has allowed Thailand to flout international norms by continuing to allow trade and export of the tiny animals.
But under pressure from the European Union and signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) – which regulates their trade – the government is planning to ban commercial fishing and sale of seven species of seahorses in February. Academic studies also are underway to determine if the animals should be placed on the endangered-species list.
Until then, sale of any type of seahorse technically is legal, but frowned upon, as most of the international community has outlawed it.
Paisri said she normally sells grilled squid, prawns and other fresh seafood, but seahorses had been demanded by Chinese tourists who believe they hold medicinal value. So she had a relative purchase them for 80 baht each in Bangkok and has been selling them for nearly twice that price for a month.
Wichai blamed poor supervision of the nearly 500 vendors selling at the floating market for the faux pas. He said the park’s inspection staff has failed to adequately monitor what is being sold on the premises, especially when it comes to marine species.
He apologized to the public and pledged that it won’t happen again.