Conservation and management of seahorses and other Syngnathidae

Publication Type: Journal Article

Year of Publication: 2011

Authors: Vincent, ACJ, Foster SJ, Koldewey HJ

Journal: Journal of Fish Biology

Volume: 78

Issue: 6

Pagination: 1681 - 1724

Date Published: 06/2011

Keywords: aquarium trade, by-catch, habitat degradation, threatened species, traditional Chinese medicine


This article analyses the pressures on seahorses and explores conservation responses. It focuses on seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) but also considers pipefishes and seadragons, especially where they can fill gaps in seahorse knowledge. The charisma of many syngnathids can make them good flagship species for threats and solutions in marine conservation. The article combines a synthesis of published literature with new data on the trade in seahorses for traditional medicine, aquarium display and curiosities. Most traded seahorses come from trawl by-catch, although seahorses are also targeted. The total extraction is large, tens of millions of animals annually, and unsustainable. A first review of the effect of habitat change on syngnathids raises many questions, while suggesting that some species may cope better than others. The combination of pressures means that many species of syngnathid are now included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or national equivalents. In addition, seahorse exports from 175 countries are limited to sustainable levels under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora. Possible conservation measures include marine protected areas, fisheries management, select aquaculture ventures, trade regulation, improved governance (particularly) and consumer engagement.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03003.x