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For years, Asian demand for a dried fish bladder prized as a culinary delicacy—and purported aphrodisiac—has been a boon to French Guiana's fishing industry, but officials are racing to rein in the market over fears the species will soon be endangered.
The acoupa weakfish, found along the sandy bottom of the ocean off the coast of the Caribbean territory, has long been an important catch and often features on local restaurant menus.
Bladder - Opaque - Organ - Acoupa - Control
But it is the swim bladder, an opaque organ that lets the acoupa control its buoyancy, that has fostered a thriving illegal trade, now attracting hunters from neighbouring countries.
Dried and ground into a powder, the swim bladder is "highly appreciated in Asia, one of the seven dishes of the Chinese emperors—in China it's a little bit like truffles," said Bruno Morin, deputy director of Guiana's maritime administration.
Reputation - Energy - Bladder - Variety - Soups
Besides its reputation for boosting sexual energy, the bladder is also used to enhance a variety of soups and other dishes, and can even be found in cosmetics.
Demand has soared in recent years after overfishing of the totoaba—a Gulf of California fish, also reputed for medicinal virtues in China—prompted it to be declared an endangered species.
Years - Acoupa - Bladders - Euros - Kilo
Five years ago, fresh acoupa bladders sold for 40 to 45 euros a kilo ($20-22 per pound), "but now we're at 170 to 180 euros," Morin told AFP in the capital, Cayenne.
And prices for dried bladders can reach 1,000 euros or more.
It takes some 30 kilos of acoupa to obtain just one kilo of bladders.
Organ - Buyers - Stalls
The organ did not used to find buyers at fish stalls...
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