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Sample resource guide for ASIA 150 on Seahorses in Asia


Seahorses are a group of fish species in the family Syngnathidae, principally in the genus Hippocampus. Many species are native to various parts of Asia, mainly in shallow coastal waters. Their conservation status is variable, with some vulnerable to fishing and other threats. There is an extensive trade in dried seahorses for use in traditional Chinese medicine, and a smaller trade in live seahorses for aquarium collections. Seahorses also appear occasionally in popular culture, especially in Japan.

Science and Conservation
Trade in Seahorses
  • Simone Louw and Markus Bűrgener, Seahorse Trade Dynamics from Africa to Asia. February 2021. https://www.traffic.org/publications/reports/seahorse-trade-dynamics-from-africa-to-asia/ Report from Traffic, a wildlife conservation NGO, on the global trade in seahorses. Provides statistics on the scale of the trade, including sources of exports and the largest import markets, with a focus on exports from Africa to Asia. The site is available in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese, but the report is in English only.
  • Perry, A. L., T. Vaidyanathan, Brian G. Giles, M-A Moreau, Candace M. Picco, and A. C. J. Vincent. The Catch and Trade of Seahorses in India Pre-Ban, 2020. https://open.library.ubc.ca/soa/cIRcle/collections/facultyresearchandpublications/52383/items/1.0395002 Report on the trade in seahorses in India before it was banned in 1999. Describe what species were caught, where, and the nature of the trade. 55 page report in PDF format.
  • Foster, Sarah J., Ting-Chun Kuo, Anita Kar Yan Wan, and Amanda C. J. Vincent. “Global Seahorse Trade Defies Export Bans under CITES Action and National Legislation.” Marine Policy 103 (May 1, 2019): 33–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.01.014. Peer-reviewed academic article. it examines the sources of seahorse trade in Hong Kong after exports from the main source country, Thailand, was banned in 2016. It argues that bans are insufficient to stop trade when seahorses are caught along with other fish when indiscriminate fishing methods are used.
  • Zeng, Ling, Andrea Armani, Jing Wen, Hongjun Lin, Youhou Xu, Sigang Fan, Yulin Sun, et al. “Molecular Identification of Seahorse and Pipefish Species Sold as Dried Seafood in China: A Market-Based Survey to Highlight the Actual Needs for a Proper Trade.” Food Control 103 (September 1, 2019): 175–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2019.04.007. Peer-reviewed academic article describing the use of genetic markers to identify species of dried seahorse sold for medicinal use in China, based on samples purchased in one city. It concludes that seahorses are not consistently labeled and that this circumvents regulations intended to conserve wild populations.
  • CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) trade database. Can be used to find officially-reported quantities of trade between countries in species registered by the CITES agreement, including seahorses, which can be found by choosing "search by taxon" and entering "hippocampes." It can be limited by year and/or country (source and destination). Data can be viewed as a web page or as a CSV file. Site available in English, French, and Spanish. https://trade.cites.org/
  • Seahorse Ways, the website of a seahorse farm in Kagoshima in southern Japan. Allows visitors and sells cultivated seahorses and supplies to hobbyists. http://www.seahorseways.com/. Static site in Japanese only. Also has an active Instagram account that shows images of seahorses and of the site. https://www.instagram.com/tatsunootoshigohouse/?igshid=zchk6idrqg7w.
Seahorses in Popular Culture