National assessments of the conservation status of species are enormously important.
It is national governments that make legal decisions about legislation, policy and action relating to conservation of biodiversity. It is also national governments that implement and track progress on global accords. Furthermore, national assessments will best reflect the cultural and conservation values that will also influence conservation action. It is thus vital that countries conduct assessments to provide a good basis for allocating attention and resources.
National assessment criteria
Many countries have their own national procedures and protocols to assess species’ conservation status. Most such countries have largely adopted the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria, although sometimes with subtle (or larger) differences. Subnational assessments may also be very important in large countries or those with very diverse situations across the country; what is true in one sea may not be the case in another, even within a country. Subnational assessments are common in USA and Canada, Brazil, Japan, and others, partly through government efforts but also thanks to non-governmental organizations and individuals.
Most recent national assessments
During a study in 2020, we were able to find information on just 48 national assessments, covering only 15 seahorse species across 21 countries. More than three-quarters of these resulted in evaluations of conservation concern, primarily as Vulnerable. Another 16% of classifications could not come to a conclusion because of a dearth of data. Overall, 93% of seahorse species with national assessments were considered of conservation concern in at least one country. Almost all globally Vulnerable species were also classified as Vulnerable or threatened at a national level. However, assessments for some species varied greatly across countries, potentially reflecting differences in pressures and conservation action (and/or assessment protocol). Usefully, some species that were considered globally Data Deficient were allocated to a category at the national level.
We are very conscious that national assessments currently only cover a very small proportion of the 46 seahorse species distributed in the waters of about 130 countries. Given that assessments are important precursors to guiding conservation priorities and effective management strategies at the national level, we urgently need more national (and subnational) assessments of seahorses around the world. Project Seahorse is encouraging countries to complete national assessments for seahorses.