International Protection for Seahorses Takes Effect

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International Protection for Seahorses Takes Effect

Spotted seahorse in the Indo-Pacific Ocean photo: WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund

14 May 2004

by Anai Rhoads

AnaiRhoads.org - There are currently 77 countries involved in the seahorse trade, however beginning 15 May new international trade rules will be applied to over 160 countries that will alter the seahorse trade overall. The rule will help ensure that the current commerical trade is not detrimental to wild populations.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is ordering the new law, which will protect all 33 species from overfishing. The CITES regulations for seahorses were approved in November 2002 but delayed for 18 months to give countries the opportunity to put the policies in place and fully enforce them.

"TRAFFIC has produced an ID manual to help ensure the seahorse regulations are successful in conserving these remarkable species," said Ernie Cooper of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of World Wildlife Fund and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. "It will be distributed to Customs agents and law enforcement officials in 165 countries to help them enforce the new rules through proper identification of the different species."


Dried seahorses for traditional Chinese medicine, Philippines photo: WWF-Canon/Jürgen Freund

An estimated 24 million seahorses are captured in the wild annually. Some use the seahorse as medicine, believing the animal in the dry form helps alleviate sexual dysfunction and other ailments.

Since the seahorse is a unique animal, it is in high demand. Most are sold to pet stores in the aquarium trade or mailed to customers around the world. The trade volume of dried seahorse in 2002 is believed to be at least 70 tons according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Seahorses are monogamous creatures, keeping one partner for life. If their mate dies or is taken away, the seahorse that is left behind sometimes never mates again. Those that do find a new partner, won't do so for a long time after their original partner is gone. Not only has the seahorse trade compromised its population, but has contributed directly to their misery.

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