Enhancing sustainability of the international trade in seahorses with a single minimum size limit.

Publication Type: Journal Article

Year of Publication: 2005

Authors: Foster, SJ, Vincent ACJ

Journal: Conservation Biology

Volume: 19

Pagination: 1044-1050

Keywords: adaptive management, CITES, exploitation, fisheries, Hippocampus, syngnathid


Management tools are needed to help regulate the international trade in seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora. Given the limited understanding of seahorse population dynamics and fishing mortality, a single minimum size limit for all seahorse species appears to be a useful initial step toward adaptive management, both biologically and socially. We collected data on maximum height and size at first maturity for 32 seahorse species and cross-validated the data with results from an analysis across marine teleosts. A minimum height restriction of 10 cm would permit, based on calculated data, reproduction in 15 species before they recruited to the fishery.
Of the remaining 17 species, 16 were essentially not in international trade, were safeguarded under domestic legislation, or were partly protected by this size limit. Only one species, H. kelloggi, was not well served by the 10-cm minimum size limit. The CITES technical committee on animals has now decided to propose this single size limit to all 167 signatory nations as one option toward sustainable trade. Complementary management
measures for seahorses are also required, particularly for populations primarily exploited in bycatch.