Project Seahorse (www.projectseahorse.org), a partnership of the Zoological Society of London (UK) and the University of British Columbia (Canada) is seeking contacts and information on seahorse trade in and from West Africa. Our findings will assist national agencies to ensure that all exports are sustainable, as required under CITES (http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/how.php).
Our planned research will estimate levels of seahorse trade in West Africa and its potential impact on local populations and global trade dynamics. Seahorses (Hippocampus species) are exploited globally for traditional medicines, aquarium display and curiosities. Such consumption is generally unsustainable, with all seahorse species either categorized by the IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction or Data Deficient with too little information available to make an assessment. The only seahorse species currently known to live off West Africa, Hippocampus algiricus, falls under the latter category.
Our field researcher will be beginning a 6‐week study this May in order to obtain both qualitative and quantitative information about the trade of this seahorse species and, to some extent, its biology.
The foci for this work will be Senegal and Guinea, as the CITES database shows that both have high volumes of export. The objectives of this work are to elicit and synthesize knowledge about extraction of and trade in H. algiricus in West Africa. Such findings will be given to African collaborators for use in local conservation and management. Through this field research we aim to develop in-country collaborations and partnerships and to engage colleagues in an emerging international citizen science initiative for seahorse biology, ecology, and conservation. This first research will also help build the foundation for future marine conservation initiatives in the region.
Our initial focus is on Guinea and Senegal, however organisations working in other parts of Western Africa are encouraged to get in touch.