Seahorses receive international protection

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Around 165 countries must now ensure that commercial trade in seahorses is not detrimental to wild stocks, thanks to the inclusion of all 33 species in new legislation covering their sale.

As from May 15, seahorses are now covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The legislation carefully monitors the sale of the fishes to ensure that wild stocks aren't damaged by over exploitation.

Dr Amanda Vincent, Director of Project Seahorse told US Newswire: "At least 77 countries are involved in the seahorse trade, so regulations on the international level are needed to ensure their protection.

"An estimated 24 million seahorses are taken from the wild each year, dried and sold for use in traditional Chinese medicine, to treat everything from asthma to sexual dysfunction. Hundreds of thousands more are sold live for the aquarium trade."

To aid the identification of seahorses in imports, Project Seahorse and Traffic (the monitoring network of the World Wildlife Fund and the IUCN) have produced a special book explaining how to distinguish the species.

Although some seahorses are farmed for the aquarium hobby, many are still wild caught, but the survival rate is low as the fish can be difficult to feed and therefore prone to nutritional disorders.