Seahorse Frequently Asked Questions / Are seahorses endangered?

Only one seahorse is currently listed as endangered, the Cape Seahorse, also known as the Knysia Seahorse Hippocampus capensis. However, this is more a function of not having enough data to know how many there are or what percent are being fished. Most seahorses are listed as data deficient, and chances are as they’re studied more, we’ll find out that other species are at risk. The Thorny Seahorse Hippocampus histrix  was just added to the ICUN’s list as threatened in 2012. Additionally, the Dwarf Seahorse Hippocampus zosterae is under review in the United States to see if it should be protected as an endangered species.

Seahorses are also protected by CITES, which is an international treaty that countries voluntarily participate in to help protect animals that are considered vulnerable. Seahorses were added in 2004, so their trade is regulated. Countries can legally export them if they are responsibly harvested. However, some countries have opted out. And during recent reviews by Project Seahorse, it’s been discovered that many participating countries aren’t actually regulating the harvest of their seahorses at all.

So the question isn’t entirely clear. It’s estimated that roughly 25 million seahorses a year are harvested from the ocean, many of them smuggled out of various countries. But there isn’t enough know about the overall seahorse population to gauge how significant a risk this is.

Posted in: Conservation