By Lily Stanton and Do Huu Hoang
(Part two of a three part series, a photo essay)
After discovering that more than 2 million seahorses were landed annually as bycatch by the many trawl boats operating in Vietnamese waters in the late 1990s, we (Project Seahorse) returned to uncover what, if anything, has changed in the catch and trade of seahorses in Viet Nam.
Our seahorse trade detective - our colleague, Dr. Do Huu Hoang from Viet Nam’s Institute of Oceanography - set out to interview those involved in seahorse trade across Viet Nam from November 2016 to January 2017. Despite some challenges (bad storms and significant holidays), Hoang travelled to over 20 different fishing ports, villages and cities and interviewed more than 146 people (fishers, buyers and aquaculturists) in eight Provinces.
Hoang asked the fishers many questions, including: What type of boat or fishing gear did they use? How many numbers of days in a year did they spent fishing? How many seahorses did they catch, on average? How, and where, did they sell their seahorses? What was the going price for seahorse? What were their thoughts on the changes in the size or number of seahorses they have caught over the years? Similarly, Hoang asked the buyers: where did they receive their supply of seahorses from? How, and where, did they sell the seahorses, and at what price? Finally, Hoang asked the aquaculturists: What species, and how many seahorses, did they bred in their facility? Where did they receive their initial supply of seahorses from? Where were their seahorses sold?
Seahorses enter a complicated system of trade from fishers to various levels of buyers and/or traders. By piecing together information from a number of different sources, we have been able to create a fuller, more accurate picture of the true catch and trade of seahorses in Viet Nam. More on that in part three of our blog, but in the meantime here are some images, taken by Hoang during his time in the field, which provide a glimpse into the life of a seahorse trade detective.