Trade and policy

Project Seahorse is committed to making the global seahorse trade sustainable. We take an active role at many levels of the trade network, working with customs officials, traditional medicine practitioners, aquarists, resource managers, and policymakers to ensure that seahorse populations are not overexploited. 

Our work / Field stories / Why save seahorses?

(Banner photo: Thomas P. Peschak/iLCP)

Seahorses are valuable global commodities.  Luciano Candisani/iLCP  

Seahorses are valuable global commodities. Luciano Candisani/iLCP 




15-20 million

Seahorses are caught around the world every year
(many more are traded)


Year we achieved landmark trade protections for seahorses under Appendix II of CITES — the first for any marine fishes since 1975


Shark and ray species we've helped protect through our seahorse trade work


Year we generated the first-ever global ban, through CITES, on seahorse exports (Vietnam)

What we do

Policy expertise

Combining trade detective work with biological expertise, we strengthen national and international conservation policy, helping governments to ensure their trade in seahorses and other marine fishes is sustainable.

In 2002, Project Seahorse was instrumental in generating a landmark global agreement under CITES that forbids countries from exporting more seahorses than wild populations can bear. This, the first-ever global agreement on trade in marine fishes of commercial importance, created a new international tool for fisheries management. 

Since then we've helped catalyze the first seahorse export ban, in Vietnam (2013), and we have created important policy tools such as the CITES Non-Detriment Finding Framework. Our tireless trade and policy work has helped achieve new protections for other threatened marine species such as sharks and rays, as well.

Sustainable traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

We engage TCM traders and practitioners in Hong Kong and mainland China, supporting their work to make trade sustainable and promoting greater conservation awareness in TCM consumers. Together with the Hong Kong Traditional Chinese Medicine Association we established a voluntary code of conduct for seahorse imports in Hong Kong (no small ones and no pregnant males).    

Aquariums and aquaculture

Working with our colleagues around the world, we improve the sustainability of the aquarium trade in seahorses, ensuring that purchases come from sustainable sources and developing monitoring systems for the live trade of seahorse relatives. Some of our successes include establishing the European zoo and aquarium seahorse breeding programme; completing the first compilation of knowledge on seahorse husbandry in public aquariums; and forming a network for professional aquarists interested in syngnathids (293 members from 82 institutions in 17 countries).

A number of shark and ray species have benefitted from our CITES work.  Stock photo

A number of shark and ray species have benefitted from our CITES work. Stock photo