Abu Dhabi - Seahorse is about 15 to 20 years old.
An Abu Dhabi resident has found a 35cm long big-belly seahorse, which he claims could be the largest in the world. "This is an incredibly rare catch. When my friend brought it to me, I could not believe my eyes as I have never seen a seahorse this big," Samer Heikal, who has worked as a deep sea diver for 25 years, told Khaleej Times.
The British expat said his friend and fisherman Ali Al Rayisi accidently found the mystical creature while he was fishing in Khor Fakkan last week.
"It was caught in the fishing anchor by accident. Ali tried to release it back into the sea, but it could not swim as its belly bladder was inflated due to air pressure. When he called me, I asked him to bring it to me straightaway," Heikal said.
Heikal, who runs an aquarium shop, said he removed the air pressure by using a syringe and now the seahorse is kept in a salt water aquarium in his shop. Heikal and his wife have named it 'Sparkles'.
"The first thing I did was to measure it from its snout to the tip of its tail. It exactly measured 35cms, which makes it one of the world's longest seahorses ever found," claimed Heikal.
The biggest seahorse ever reported in the world is a 34-cm long big-belly seahorse found off the coast of UK in 2015.
The marine expert estimates that the seahorse is about 15 to 20 years old.
"First I thought I will put it up online for sale as I will fetch a fortune. But Sparkle is not eating and I am worried. Usually they will live only seven years in captivity and grow up to 12 inches."
Heikal said he is planning to go diving and release Sparkle back into the sea. "That is where he belongs. I don't want to keep him anymore and endanger his life."
Seahorses are an endangered species and their numbers are fast dwindling. Habitat degradation is a real threat to seahorse populations as they mainly inhabit in shallow, coastal areas which are highly influenced by human activities, according to iSeahorse, a website for seahorse science and conservation.
"Seahorses are exploited for use as traditional medicines, aquarium fishes, curios (souvenirs), and tonic foods. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the largest direct market for seahorses, but they are also used in other traditional medicines. Many seahorses in aquariums are wild-caught, while dead seahorses are incorporated into jewellery, key chains, paperweights, and other crafts. Furthermore, many seahorses are caught accidentally (as bycatch) in fishing nets, particularly in trawl nets intended to catch shrimps," reads the website.