Skip to main content

Comparing interview and trade data in assessing changes in the seahorse Hippocampus spp. trade following CITES listing

  • Joy T.L. Lam (a1), Heather J. Koldewey (a2), Maï Yasué (a1) and Amanda C.J. Vincent (a1)

Concerns regarding the sustainability of the seahorse Hippocampus spp. trade led to their listing on CITES Appendix II in 2002, with implementation in 2004. In 2007 we interviewed wholesale traders of seahorses in Hong Kong, China, seeking indications of the effects of the CITES listing on the seahorse trade. We cross-validated traders’ perspectives with government trade statistics (1998–2007) from Hong Kong and Taiwan. We also compared these data with trade statistics for pipefish, which are related species with similar medicinal uses but are not CITES-listed. Both the interviews and government statistics indicated reduced volumes of seahorses traded through Hong Kong, changes in source countries, and price increases post-implementation. Traders suggested that these changes were largely a result of the CITES listing. However, data indicate that other factors such as shifts in domestic policies and local demand may also have affected the trade. By cross-validating the perspectives of local stakeholders with trade statistics in a wildlife trading hub we were able to explore hypotheses on the local and global impacts of CITES. Such approaches are especially important for CITES-listed species because often there is no single data source that is complete and wholly reliable.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
* Also at: University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
† Also at: Quest University Canada, Squamish, Canada
This paper contains supplementary material that can be found online at
Hide All
Blundell A.G. & Mascia M.B. (2005) Discrepancies in reported levels of international wildlife trade. Conservation Biology, 19, 20202025.
Burkhart E.P., Jacobson M.G. & Finley J. (2012) A case study of stakeholder perspective and experience with wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) conservation efforts in Pennsylvania, USA: limitations to a CITES driven, top-down regulatory approach. Biodiversity and Conservation, 21, 36573679.
Cheung S.M. & Dudgeon D. (2006) Quantifying the Asian turtle crisis: market surveys in southern China, 2000–2003. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 16, 751770.
Christie P., Oracion E.G. & Eisma-Osorio L. (2011) Impacts of the CITES Listing of Sea Horses on the Status of the Species and on Human Well-being in the Philippines. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. 1058, FAO, Rome, Italy.
CITES (1979) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Fora. Http:// [accessed 25 May 2014].
CITES (2004) Seahorses and Other Members of the Family Syngnathidae (Decision 12.54): Report of the Workign Group. Http:// [accessed 25 May 2014].
Dongol Y. & Heinen J.T. (2012) Pitfalls of CITES implementation in Nepal: a policy gap analysis. Environmental Management, 50, 181190.
Doukakis P., Parsons E.C.M., Burns W.C.G., Salomon A.K., Hines E. & Cigliano J.A. (2009) Gaining traction: retreading the wheels of marine conservation. Conservation Biology, 23, 841846.
Evanson M.E., Foster S.J., Wiswedel S. & Vincent A.C.J. (2011) Tracking the international trade of seahorses (Hippocampus species). Fisheries Centre Research Reports, 19, 192.
Ferraro P.J., McIntosh C. & Ospina M. (2007) The effectiveness of the US Endangered Species Act: an econometric analysis using matching methods. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 54, 245261.
Ferraro P.J. & Pattanayak S.K. (2006) Money for nothing? A call for empirical evaluation of biodiversity conservation investments. PLoS Biology, 4(4), e105.
Foster S.J. & Vincent A.C.J. (2005) Enhancing sustainability of the international trade in seahorses with a single minimum size limit. Conservation Biology, 19, 10441050.
Gastañaga M., Macleod R., Hennessey B., Nuñez J.U., Puse E., Arrascue A. et al. (2011) A study of the parrot trade in Peru and the potential importance of internal trade for threatened species. Bird Conservation International, 21, 7685.
Karesh W.B., Cooke R.A., Gilbert M. & Newcomb J. (2007) Implications of wildlife trade on the movement of avian influenza and other infectious diseases. Journal of WIldlife Diseases, 43, S55S59.
Lourie S.A., Foster S.J., Cooper E.W.T. & Vincent A.C.J. (2004) A Guide to the Identification of Seahorses. Project Seahorse, University of British Columbia, Canada, and TRAFFIC North America, Washington, DC, USA.
Natusch D.J.D. & Lyons J.A. (2012) Exploited for pets: the harvest and trade of amphibians and reptiles from Indonesian New Guinea. Biodiversity and Conservation, 21, 28992911.
Nijman V. & Shepherd C.R. (2007) Trade in non-native, CITES-listed wildlife in Asia, as exemplified by the trade in freshwater turtles and tortoises (Chelonidae) in Thailand. Contributions to Zoology, 76, 207211.
Poh T.-M. & Fanning L.M. (2012) Tackling illegal, unregulated, and unreported trade towards humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) recovery in Sabah, Malaysia. Marine Policy, 36, 696702.
R Development Core Team (2012) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
Reeve R. (2006) Wildlife trade, sanctions and compliance: lessons from the CITES regime. International Affairs, 82, 881897.
Shuman C.S., Hodgson G. & Ambrose R.F. (2005) Population impacts of collecting sea anemones and anemonefish for the marine aquarium trade in the Philippines. Coral Reefs, 24, 564573.
Smith M.J., Benítez-Díaz H., Clemente-Muñoz M.A., Donaldson J., Hutton J.M., McGough H.N. et al. (2011) Assessing the impacts of international trade on CITES-listed species: current practices and opportunities for scientific research. Biological Conservation, 144, 8291.
Sreepada R.A., Desai U.M. & Naik S. (2002) The plight of Indian sea horses: need for conservation and management. Current Science, 82, 377378.
Vincent A.C.J. (1996) The International Trade in Seahorses. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.
Vincent A.C.J., Foster S.J. & Koldewey H.J. (2011) Conservation and management of seahorses and other Syngnathidae. Journal of Fish Biology, 78, 16811724.
Winter S., Penker M. & Kriechbaum M. (2011) Integrating farmers’ knowledge on toxic plants and grassland management: a case study on Colchicum autumnale in Austria. Biodiversity and Conservation, 20, 17631787.
Zhang H.C., Qing L.P. & Zhang E.D. (2000) Conservation of Endangered Wildlife Species Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Second Military Medical University Press, Shanghai, China.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Lam Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 PDF (208 KB)
208 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 29
Total number of PDF views: 106 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 537 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.