The Seahorse Dilemma

The seahorse dilemma

Seahorses live in almost every sea and ocean around the world. They are one of the most majestic creatures found on earth, with seahorse mythology being found worldwide. Seahorses are renowned for their unique morphological features.

The seahorse is a blend of a host of diverse creatures. The seahorse is said to have a head of a horse, a snout of an aardvark, eyes of a chameleon, pouch of a kangaroo and the tail of a monkey. Other fascinating characteristics found in the seahorse are their amazing camouflage ability which enables them to change colour to match their habitat, helping them fend of predators.

Traditional medicine trade

But the most astonishing feature of the seahorse is the fact that seahorses are the only species on earth in which the male falls pregnant and carries the young to term. It is these unique features and attributes, make’s seahorses an intriguing species to study and to observe. Unfortunately it is these captivating qualities that make it in such high demand in many different international trades such as the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Curio Trade and Aquarium trade.

It is this high demand on wild stocks which has left seahorse on the endangered list, with seahorse fisheries reporting a minimum decline of 50% in fisheries over the last five years. Through our research we have discovered that seahorses will become extinct in the next 20 – 30 years. Are we going to sit back and let seahorses become the dinosaurs of our generation?

Traditional medicine trade

The majority of fished seahorses go to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a valid form of healthcare, and is trusted by one-quarter of the world’s population.

The curio trade

Traditional medicine trade (TCM) industry takes approximately 150 million seahorses per year from the wild for use mainly as natural aphrodisiacs. However, our research has discovered a worrying new trend for dosing Chinese children with seahorse pills in the belief it will spur growth. Seahorses have also been proven to have high levels of collagen, which is encouraging Chinese woman to use it as a substitute for Botox.

Dried seahorses retails from US$600 – 3000 per kilogram with larger, paler and smoother animals commanding the highest prices. In fact, in terms of value based on weight seahorses retail for more than the price of silver and almost that of gold in Asia. (UNEP,2004).

The curio trade

Seahorses unique shape and bony skeleton means that they are a sought after commodity when dried for curiosities and jewellery. It is estimated that over 1 million seahorses per annum are consumed for this market (The International Seahorse Trust, 2006).

The aquarium trade

The aquarium trade

The seahorse with its beauty, uniqueness and mythical like qualities, is fast becoming a sought after addition to aquaria. The animals in high demand are bright in colour, of a large size, and possess ornate features. However, wild seahorses traditionally supplied to this market do not adapt well to captivity, with less than 0.1% surviving the first six weeks due to their inability to eat non living feeds.

However, captive bred seahorses are trained to eat frozen foods, are disease free and are used to aquarium environments and therefore thrive in home aquariums. It is estimated that there are approximately one million seahorses sold in the aquarium market annually (The International Seahorse Trust, 2007).

Save Our Seahorses

Save Our Seahorses is a non profit organisation founded in 2011 to help save seahorses from extinction. Our experienced staff brings hands on, practical and effective methods to conservation. We work closely with other organisations helping to build a community dedicated to saving all seahorses.

Our Goals:

Fishing Practises


Our aim is to build awareness of the plight of seahorses among the general public and to stimulate international debate. One of the best ways to make an effective and permanent change in society is through public pressure and outcry. Informing the public of the critical situation in decreasing numbers of seahorses, will help put pressure on the relevant authorities to make a positive change towards the conservation of seahorses. We are able to deliver a multimedia campaign and documentary that target millions of people worldwide.

Fishing Practises:

Current fishing practises are detrimental to the survival of seahorses. We are campaigning for changes in fishing laws to better protect the wild populations of seahorses. A simple change such as returning pregnant males to the wild would make a huge difference to the populations of seahorses found in the wild.

Conservation through cultivation

Conservation through cultivation:

We strongly believe that seahorse cultivation is a key element to the survival of the species. If demand can be met with cultivated specimens, it would relieve huge pressure that is felt by the wild population which is currently being overfished. We aim to initiate captive breeding projects in areas where seahorses are actively fished and thus help alleviate pressures on the wild populations.

Marine Reserves:

One of the most well known and effective methods in conservation is the introduction of reserves. It has been proven repeatedly both in terrestrial and marine reserves that after time, the ecosystems return to their natural state. We are campaigning for governments to introduce marine reserves in areas which have been decimated by fishing, to allow wild populations to replenish.


We would also like to encourage ecotourism within marine reserves and other seahorse populated areas, where visitors can dive with seahorses. This would educate people in the problems of dwindling seahorse numbers and also be a source of income for the local people.