Toolkit: CITES for seahorses – General Information


Hippocampus kuda, Anilao, The Phillipines. Photo by Bruno Van Saen/Guylian Seahorses of the World

General Information | Country Specific Resources 

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 all 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.  We would love to hear from you.

Seahorse listing on CITES Appendix II

  • All species of seahorse (Hippocampus, 44 species) were listed on CITES Appendix II at CoP 12 (Santiago, Chile, November 2002).  Download proposal

Seahorse species

Regional identification guides

Seahorse distribution

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


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

  • 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
  • Guidelines and protocols have been developed that allow Parties to deduce seahorse population trends (as required by the Convention) 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

Minimum size limit


Workshop proceedings

  • Vincent, A.C.J. and B.G. Giles. 2004. International trade in syngnathids.  International workshop on seahorse fisheries management. Mazatlán (Mexico), 3-5 February 2004. 36 pp.
  • Vincent, A.C.J. and B.G. Giles. 2004. Syngnathid trade – a summary. International workshop on seahorse fisheries management. Mazatlán (Mexico), 3-5 February 2004. 2 pp.

Related Policy Briefings

  • 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.
  • 2016. Implementation of CITES Appendix II listings for marine fishes.
    (English French  Spanish) Information Document for the 17th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties. CoP17 Inf. 65. 5 pp.
  • Vincent, A.C.J., Sadovy, Y.J., Fowler, S.L. and Lieberman, S. 2013. The role of CITES in the conservation of marine fishes subject to international trade. [This briefing and the Spanish and French equivalents were distributed at CITES CoP16 and influenced the final decision to begin regulating exports of five species of sharks an all manta rays, globally.]

Review of Significant Trade (RST) in seahorses

A detailed account of the seahorse journey through RST is available in Foster, S.J. (2016). Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) and the CITES Review of Significant Trade. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 24(4): 48 pp.
Summary available as CoP17 Inf 53 (

Other relevant information