Assessing illegal trade

Our work has shown that some countries fail to implement rules in exporting seahorses.

We are concerned that countries are not meeting their CITESĀ  requirements in at least four ways, thus enabling illegal trade:

  • failure to report exports or report them inaccurately;
  • failure to limit exports to sustainable levels;
  • failure to ensure that exports are legally sourced;
  • failure to implement trade bans or suspensions.

Trafficking dried seahorses

After most countries suspended trade in seahorses in 2016, we carried out a survey of trade in dried seahorses in Hong Kong, a key importing jurisdictions, and three very important exporting countries (India, Philippines, Viet Nam). Together, these tell a story of massive trafficking in contraband seahorses.

Our work on seahorse smuggling is very important as one of the first case studies of a marine fish listing on CITES. All of our findings are transferred to national agencies and CITES to support better implementation of CITES and are also used to inform our actions in addressing illegal trade.

Trade in live seahorses

We have also surveyed the global trade in live seahorses but found no significant illegal trade, probably because (i) live animals can essentially only travel by air on certain well-monitored trade routes and (ii) the live trade moved, after CITES listing, from wild capture to captive reared and eventually captive bred seahorses.

Illegal trade on the internet

We are now assessing illegal trade on the internet. In one project, we are documenting e-commerce in seahorses and working to discern how many of those sales are illicit. In a second project, we are collaborating with Oceans Asia to document the nature and scale of seahorse seizures around the world.