Assessing East African trade in seahorse species as a basis for conservation under international controls


  • Jana M. McPherson,

    1. Project Seahorse, Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 1B1, Canada
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
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  • Amanda C.J. Vincent

    Corresponding author
    1. Project Seahorse, Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec H3A 1B1, Canada
    • Project Seahorse, Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, 2204 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
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  • 1.Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), many of which are listed as Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List, are traded worldwide as souvenirs, aquarium fish and, primarily, for use in traditional medicines. Given concern over the sustainability of this trade, the genus was added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in May 2004.
  • 2.This paper reports findings of the first ever survey of seahorse trade in Africa, conducted in Kenya and Tanzania in May and June 2000.
  • 3.Seahorse trade in Kenya was found to be negligible, with approximately 10 live seahorses exported as aquarium fish annually. Until 1998, however, Kenya may have imported somewhere from 1 to 2.3 t of dried seahorses annually from Tanzania for re-export to Asian medicine markets. Seahorse trade in Tanzania remained substantial, with at least 630–930 kg of dried seahorse exported directly to Asia each year.
  • 4.Accounts of declines in seahorse availability and seahorse size, although few in number, could be early warning signs that wild populations are suffering, at least locally. Close monitoring of future developments in the trade will be essential to allow for timely conservation action as and when necessary, and would contribute to our understanding of the ecological and economical implications of small-scale, non-food fisheries.

Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.