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Review

Diversity of Seahorse Species (Hippocampus spp.) in the International Aquarium Trade

1
Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 11103, 9700 Groningen, The Netherlands
2
Taxonomy, Systematics and Geodiversity Group, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 Leiden, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michael Wink
Diversity 2021, 13(5), 187; https://doi.org/10.3390/d13050187
Received: 16 February 2021 / Revised: 22 April 2021 / Accepted: 23 April 2021 / Published: 29 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Review Papers on Marine Diversity)
Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are threatened as a result of habitat degradation and overfishing. They have commercial value as traditional medicine, curio objects, and pets in the aquarium industry. There are 48 valid species, 27 of which are represented in the international aquarium trade. Most species in the aquarium industry are relatively large and were described early in the history of seahorse taxonomy. In 2002, seahorses became the first marine fishes for which the international trade became regulated by CITES (Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), with implementation in 2004. Since then, aquaculture has been developed to improve the sustainability of the seahorse trade. This review provides analyses of the roles of wild-caught and cultured individuals in the international aquarium trade of various Hippocampus species for the period 1997–2018. For all species, trade numbers declined after 2011. The proportion of cultured seahorses in the aquarium trade increased rapidly after their listing in CITES, although the industry is still struggling to produce large numbers of young in a cost-effective way, and its economic viability is technically challenging in terms of diet and disease. Whether seahorse aquaculture can benefit wild populations will largely depend on its capacity to provide an alternative livelihood for subsistence fishers in the source countries. For most species, CITES trade records of live animals in the aquarium industry started a few years earlier than those of dead bodies in the traditional medicine trade, despite the latter being 15 times higher in number. The use of DNA analysis in the species identification of seahorses has predominantly been applied to animals in the traditional medicine market, but not to the aquarium trade. Genetic tools have already been used in the description of new species and will also help to discover new species and in various other kinds of applications. View Full-Text
Keywords: aquaculture; CITES Trade Database; cryptobenthic fishes; FishBase; identification; pygmy seahorses; species discovery; World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) aquaculture; CITES Trade Database; cryptobenthic fishes; FishBase; identification; pygmy seahorses; species discovery; World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS)
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MDPI and ACS Style

Koning, S.; Hoeksema, B.W. Diversity of Seahorse Species (Hippocampus spp.) in the International Aquarium Trade. Diversity 2021, 13, 187. https://doi.org/10.3390/d13050187

AMA Style

Koning S, Hoeksema BW. Diversity of Seahorse Species (Hippocampus spp.) in the International Aquarium Trade. Diversity. 2021; 13(5):187. https://doi.org/10.3390/d13050187

Chicago/Turabian Style

Koning, Sasha, and Bert W. Hoeksema. 2021. "Diversity of Seahorse Species (Hippocampus spp.) in the International Aquarium Trade" Diversity 13, no. 5: 187. https://doi.org/10.3390/d13050187

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