Seahorse trade in Central America

The Central American trade in seahorses developed in the 1990s largely in response to the expanding international market; domestic demand for seahorses was very low. With the exception of the live seahorse trade in Costa Rica, there are no formal records of this trade. This research marks the first investigation into the seahorse trade in this region. Seahorses entering the dried trade in Central America were mostly caught as a bycatch of shrimp trawl fisheries. Each country except Belize traded some dried seahorses as curios, but this trade was most common in Guatemala and Honduras. In total, the domestic curio trade is estimated at between 2,800 and 4,200 dried seahorses per annum (7-11 kg). Between the mid-to-late 1990s, Honduras directly exported an estimated 100-300 kg/annum of dried seahorses to Asia. More recently, Belize supplied Asian end users with about 40 kg/annum dried seahorses from both its own waters and Honduras. Guatemala and Nicaragua have also been involved in exports. Panama imported limited numbers of dried seahorses from Hong Kong for sale as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Chinatown in the capital city. The aquarium trade in seahorses in Central America is very limited. Small numbers of live seahorses were exported from Belize to Europe and from Costa Rica to the United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and possibly Korea. A few live seahorses were imported via Miami, USA, to both Costa Rica and Panama, and small domestic trades also exist in these two countries. There is no known live seahorse trade in Guatemala, Honduras, or Nicaragua.

Baum, J.K. & A.C.J. Vincent (2011). Seahorse trade in Central America. p. 78-101. In: Vincent, A.C.J., Giles, B.G., Czembor, C.A. and Foster, S.J. (eds.). Trade in seahorses and other syngnathids in countries outside Asia (1998-2001). Fisheries Centre Research Reports 19(1). Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia [ISSN 1198-6727].