Sustainability of seahorse fishing

The fishery for seahorses is large, global and destructive. Many millions of animals are taken every year for medicines, aquarium fishes and curios. One apparent consequence is that seahorse populations are declining, with heavy penalties for the subsistence fishers who depend on them. A new project in the Philippines works closely with the community to implement changes in the seahorse fishery and to develop related initiatives in marine conservation.

Attempts to manage and conserve seahorses are hampered by (i) inadequate knowledge of seahorse biology, (ii) the vulnerable life history of seahorses, (iii) difficulties in monitoring the trade, (iv) widespread and varied consumption threatening all seahorses, (v) their frequent incidental occurrence in by-catch, (vi) rapidly accelerating demand, (vii) the lack of expected economic limits to fishery viability and, perhaps (viii) the difficulty in convincing authorities that seahorses are economically important. Many of these problems are common to many fisheries. Others, though seemingly restricted to seahorses, may be a harbinger of things o come; this is probably the first case study of a fishery directed primarily for medicines.

Vincent, A.C.J. (1997) Sustainability of seahorse fishing. In: H.A. Lessios and I.G. Macintyre (eds.) Proceedings of the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium Vol. 2. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama. p. 2045-2050.