Anthiase coral in a Marine Protected Area. Photo by Nick Hill / Project Seahorse

Drive Societal Change

Project Seahorse invites and urges colleagues in government agencies and resource management roles to make an urgent and material difference to conserving seahorses and their marine environments. Much of what we outline here has already been adopted as good policy. We exhort decision-makers to follow through on existing responsibilities, with renewed commitment and determination.

We appeal to colleagues in non-governmental organizations and donor bodies to make and keep these as priority items in their slate of work. Fisheries are the greatest threat to marine biodiversity and need significant attention, as does habitat degradation in estuaries, lagoons and shallow coastal areas.

The list we propose largely reflects and advances existing commitments. The value of such changes is not disputed. The next and urgent challenge is to find the will and the resources to act on such clear necessities. Much of our progress will depends on changing our view of the ocean. It is not an empty expanse on featureless water. It is a highly configured biome rich in marine animals and plants, many of them in a perilous state. Moreover, human well-being depends on a healthy ocean providing food, oxygen, climate regulation and so much more.

Project Seahorse is actively engaged in many of these issues (marked *), and would be delighted to discuss how your contributions could help us effect change.

Too often, fishes are accorded less respect than mammals, birds and even reptiles and amphibians. There is real need to offer stewardship, protection and funding to marine fishes on a par with other animals.

Nations are steadily committing to safeguarding 30% of the ocean by 2030, which is a matter of IUCN policy. Such protected areas must be justly implemented, provide good ecological coverage and exclude damaging practices, particularly bottom trawling.

Bottom trawling is non-selective and destructive and has evolved into annihilation fishing in many regions. Such fisheries must increasingly be excluded from large areas of the ocean and soon brought to an end.

Control illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, starting with bottom trawling. Bottom trawling is illegal in many inshore areas yet often continues with impunity, including within MPAs. Even where it operates legally, it is often poorly monitored (unreported) and/or poorly managed (unregulated). Such harm needs to stop, as must all other fishing practices that operate illicitly and untrammeled.

The World Trade Organization is discussing a global ban on subsidies that enhance capacity for fisheries. Such a move would definitely help end egregious fishing practices while also freeing up public resources for other uses.

Fishes are often treated solely as economic commodities. Yet the trade in marine wildlife is depleting populations and must be regulated at sustainable levels. In addition, initiatives to control illegal wildlife trade, on national and global scales, must embrace marine species in their efforts.

It seems self-evident that, if laws and regulations are decided, they must also be respected. Failure to implement makes a mockery of the legislation or restriction, and undermines the agency that created it. Ideally people comply with laws but enforcement is usually also necessary.

Agreements among nations offer vital opportunities to advance conservation for our global ocean. We urge action on national commitments including on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, environmental Conventions (e.g. CITES, Convention on Biological Diversity) and regional fisheries accords. IUCN Resolutions and Recommendations are often pioneering and need full engagement from all 1450 member organizations.

[Updated 10 June 2021]

[Updated 13 June 2021]