Given that seahorses were among the first marine fishes listed on CITES Appendix II, our actions on illegal trade are seminal for other marine fishes.
As the key advisor to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on trade in seahorses, our Project Seahorse team transfers our knowledge on illegal trade to national agencies and the CITES Committees to guide their actions.
We created a summary report on seahorse trade under CITES that was submitted to CITES by four governments in 2019. It prompted a series of Decisions by CITES on seahorse trade, including completing the following, among other action items:
- Document how Parties had regulated export trade and implemented the Appendix II listing for seahorses.
- Undertake a study on seahorse trade to assess shifts since the Appendix II listing and the Review of Significant Trade, along with implementation challenges and possible solutions. Seahorses were the first marine fishes to have undergone this formal trade review.
- Organize an expert workshop to discuss the implementation and enforcement of CITES for trade and propose practical steps to address associated challenges.
- From these and other assessments, develop recommendations as appropriate to ensure sustainable and legal trade in seahorses.
CITES then invited Project Seahorse to lead on items (2) and (3).
Supporting CITES Parties
In response to these CITES Decisions, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided a grant for Project Seahorse to complete much of this work. We are now fully immersed in three projects to support CITES Parties.
- Collect and collate information on management of seahorse exports / imports and associated challenges in 10 jurisdictions: six net exporters that have suspended exports (India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam) and four net importers (mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan).
- Assess the global trade in live seahorses and its changes since the CITES listing and RST processes.
- Hold an expert workshop as and when the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results of these activities will guide how CITES responds to illegal trade in dried seahorses and the evolution of trade in live seahorses.
Regulating e-commerce of wildlife
Project Seahorse is also engaged in helping regulate e-commerce of wildlife, primarily by advising a consortium of e-commerce giants on their role in selling seahorses. They followed our recommendation (in collaboration with The Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online) to remove all advertisements and end all dried seahorse sales until we could achieve greater confidence about legal sourcing of the seahorses.