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Toolkit: CITES for Seahorses -
General Information


Seahorses were listed on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix II in 2002, with implementation as of May 2004. All species of seahorse (Hippocampus spp.) are listed, which means trade can continue but must be managed to ensure it is not detrimental to wild populations, that it is legally sourced, and it must be monitored.

We developed this toolkit to help CITES Authorities implement the Appendix II listing of seahorses and overcome any challenges to ensuring that wild seahorses populations are sustainable.

This toolkit includes:

  • Easy-to-use guides for identifying seahorse species (dried or live)

  • A step-by-step framework for making non-determinant findings for seahorses

  • Trade reports and information for CITES Parties or countries

  • Reference material on seahorse conservation

Check back regularly for new versions, and contact us at with any suggestions for improvement. 

Seahorse listing on CITES Appendix II

  • All species of seahorse (Hippocampus spp) were listed on CITES Appendix II at CoP 12 (Santiago, Chile, November 2002).  Download proposal

Seahorse species

Regional identification guides

Seahorse distribution

  • Map of Global Seahorse Distribution

  • iSeahorse - additional resources on seahorses. iSeahorse is a citizen science tool for seahorse science and conservation. Anyone, anywhere in the world who sees a seahorse in the wild can contribute towards improving our understanding of seahorse behaviour, species ranges, and the threats seahorses face.

Life history and ecology

Fisheries and trade

Trade survey data have been published for both pre- and post-CITES periods for a number of countries. Such surveys of seahorse biology, fisheries and trades, have long served as the backbone of global seahorse conservation work, providing reliable estimates of trade. Listed below are global syntheses of these data. Country and region specific reports can be found under country specific resources.


Making non-detriment findings for seahorses and management options

A step by step NDF framework

This framework is intended to help CITES Authorities in making “Non-Detriment Findings” (NDFs) for seahorses. We realise making NDFs for seahorses can seem challenging, especially where Parties feel they know little about their seahorse populations. But the truth is you already know enough to get going. Truly. A lot can be done right away with the information you have. Then – in the spirit of adaptive management – you can improve your NDFs as you learn more. The more your seahorse populations are exploited or under pressure from people, the more you will need to pay attention to fixing the NDFs. This framework and the guidance we provide are intentionally generic. They need to apply to many Parties, each with different situations, limitations and opportunities. It is for your Party to decide which parts are appropriate and practical for your national situation.

The NDF framework for seahorses, in pdf format, is available in several languages (English version 4French v. 3 Spanish v.3).

This framework and supporting material are living documents (continually updated) so please check for updates regularly, and contact us with any suggestions for improvement.

Monitoring guidelines

  • Guidelines and protocols have been developed that allow Parties to deduce seahorse population trends from underwater surveys and/or in fisheries. The most effective approach is to survey seahorse landings at a sample of fishing ports on a frequent basis. Such sentinel programs can be integrated into existing fishery monitoring programs.

  • IUCN and FAO. 2016. Simple is good: moving toward pragmatic and effective monitoring to support CITES implementation for marine fishes and invertebrates on Appendix II (English French  Spanish). Information Document for the 17th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties. CoP17 Inf. 65. 7 pp


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Workshop proceedings

Bruckner, A. W., Field, J. D. & N. Daves. 2005. Proceedings of the International Workshop on CITES Implementation for Seahorse Conservation and Trade, February 3-5, 2004, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Related Policy Briefings

Review of Significant Trade (RST) in seahorses

A detailed account of the seahorse journey through RST is available as:
Foster, S.J. 2016. Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) and the CITES Review of Significant Trade. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 24(4): 48 pp.

A summary is available as:
IUCN. 2016. Assisting Parties to meet their commitments: CITES Review of significant trade for Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), a taxon traded in high volumes. (English | French | Spanish). Information Document for the 17th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties. CoP17 Inf. 53. 10 pp.

Seahorses on CITES - a roadmap to success


Banner image of Denise’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise) by Kathrin Landgraf-Kluge/Guylian Seahorses of the World