The Penghu Marine Biology Research Center has succeeded in breeding thousands of seahorses in its first effort at mass reproduction, director Tsai Wann-sheng (蔡萬生) said.
The center, which is part of the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Research Institute, began looking into the mass reproduction of seahorses after identifying a potential market for them in the aquarium industry, Tsai said on Saturday in a report on the latest technological developments in seahorse breeding.
It hopes there will be less reliance on supplies of wild seahorses, he said in the report, which is part of an exhibition in Penghu organized by the National Science Council, the National Taiwan Science Education Center and National Penghu University of Science and Technology.
The sale of wild seahorses is prohibited in Taiwan, but those bred in captivity can fetch up to NT$300 each in the ornamental fish market.
Previously, there had been no complete information how on long it takes for seahorse eggs to spawn and produce a marketable product, Tsai said.
However, the research center can now provide aquarium companies with the technology to breeding seahorses that would be ready to sell in about three months, he said.
Seahorses are very different from other fish in that they have a unique appearance and reproduction process, he said.
The seahorse’s unique physique is due to a regenerated tail fin and its spine is similar to a monkey’s, he said, adding that seahorses also swim upright instead of horizontally like most fish.
It is also unusual in that it is the male seahorse that carries and gives birth to the offspring. The female lays an egg in the male’s brood pouch and the pregnant male carries the babies for about 30 days before giving birth, Tsai said.
The Penghu center is in technology transfer talks with companies, in the hope of raising profits in the industry and reducing the need for harvesting wild sea horses, Tsai said.
In traditional Chinese medicine, seahorses are highly valued as a cure for sexual impotance and 1kg can cost as much as NT$70,000 to NT$80,000.