Project Seahorse is well aware – and deeply concerned – that mismanaged fisheries represent the greatest threat to marine biodiversity, including to most species of seahorse.
Some fisheries can be managed for sustainable extraction of seahorses while other fisheries must be constrained, or even end entirely if seahorse populations are to persist. It is not just a matter of limiting direct removal of seahorses, critical though that be. We must also reduce the indirect effects of disrupting seahorse life history – injuring the seahorses, displacing the animals or breaking up pair bonds – and damage to their habitats, many of which are vulnerable to destructive fishing practices. Such sublethal effects often have serious implications for seahorse populations.
It is particularly important to rein in non-selective fisheries, in which indiscriminate catch of marine life wreaks havoc on populations, habitats and ecosystems.
Our greatest concern is bottom trawling and other active forms of fishing that chase marine life, catching everything in their path while damaging habitats. The only serious way forward will be to exclude bottom trawling from as many areas as possible for as long as possible, with the goal of ending the practice entirely. No changes in the nets or the methods of trawling will be enough to rectify the pressures imposed by trawling. Given that bottom trawlers range from small scale wind-driven draggers to huge industrial enterprises, ending bottom trawling is going to take huge collective effort.
We also need to urge regulation of small-scale fishing for sustainability. The relatively small catches by individual fishers often add up to huge pressures on marine populations, including seahorses, simply because so many people are fishing so hard. Moreover, small-scale fishers often also employ non-selective and destructive fishing methods that need to end, such mosquito netting gear or blast fishing. Working with small-scale fishers usually involves developing initiatives with communities and regional government, in holistic approaches that respect human dependencies.