A major enterprise in conservation is to determine the current status of all species.
Many different types of assessments can be undertaken at a variety of scales and with a variety of methods. They all essentially aim to determine how likely it is that a species will go extinct in the near future. In so doing, they prompt us to gather a wide variety of information, which we synthesize into what is essentially a risk analysis.
Species assessments are a key tool in conservation, to indicate the most likely level of concern about the species, to identify which pressures are affecting the species, and to allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation action. They are assessed at global levels – and then possibly at regional scales – using guidelines generated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All species should also be evaluated at the national level, where responsibility for conservation planning and action is primarily vested.
At a global scale, at least 14 seahorse species are clearly threatened while the status of another 17 species are unknown, and labelled as Data Deficient.
Conservation assessments of seahorses on the globally pre-eminent IUCN Red List of Threatened Species indicate 14 species are threatened. All but one of those species are categorised as threatened because of population declines; eight of the 14 have experienced population declines of at least 30% in three generations or <10 years, making them Vulnerable to extinction. In addition, some seahorse species are threatened because of small geographic ranges, severely fragmented populations, and population decline; this is the case of Hippocampus capensis, a species that occurs in just three estuaries in South Africa.
We are deeply concerned that regional assessments are missing for all areas while national assessments are both rare and problematic. Responsibility for conversation action usually lies with individual countries, making such assessments vital.