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Is Seahorse Legal in India

“Any measure to reduce bycatch must be developed in collaboration with the fishing community with its participation and input,” Gupta said. “Possible solutions can range from releasing live seahorses caught in nets to changing fishing gear and land to reduce their catch,” she suggests, noting that “as long as it is developed with the participation of fishermen, there is a greater change in the actual achievement of conservation objectives for these species.” In 2001, seahorses were added to Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which prohibits their extraction and trade. The following year, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed all seahorse species in Appendix II, which regulates the export of the species to ensure the protection of wild populations. “Using mathematical models based on the length frequency of seahorse samples collected as bycatch, we estimated mortality rates and exploitation levels and found that both species face extreme fishing pressures in the Palk Bay area. Such studies need to be conducted elsewhere along the east and west coasts of India to better understand the pressure of seahorse fishing,” says K. Ranjeet, associate professor and head of the Department of Water Environmental Management, KUFOS, who oversaw the work in an email to indianexpress.com. The trade in seahorses also took place mainly in Tamil Nadu, where they were traditionally traded. Most fishermen (>90%) in the state were aware of the ban because they raised the issue uninvited. While the government has succeeded in raising public awareness of the ban, it has not converted it into conservation measures, Vaidyanathan says, noting that awareness is likely offset by its cost-effectiveness for those willing to take risks.

“The illegal trade continues, but this trade has now been driven underground.” We found that the seahorse fishery continues with annual catches of about 13 million seahorses, based on estimates of the locations we studied along the coast of mainland India. Most of these animals have been perceptibly obtained by non-selective fishing gear operating along the seabed, near the coast, at lower latitudes and at shallower depths, especially in biogenic habitats. The July 22 catch, the largest seahorse in India, is an indication of worrying trends. While the port of Chennai becomes a haven for smugglers serving the Southeast Asian market, the Gulf of Mannar is stripped of its maritime riches. The study shows that both of these seahorse species are vulnerable to overfishing and that there is an urgent need to develop species-specific conservation guidelines and implement them in place. In the Palk Bay area, large numbers of seahorses are caught by trawls, which are traditional modified shrimp trawls that search for shrimp in seagrass beds. Reducing seahorse bycatch can also have an impact on the capture of economically useful species. “We need to work to create selective fisheries that provide food security and more sustainable economic resources,” Vaidyanathan said. To limit seahorse catches, Vaidyanathan suggests that traditional trawlers establish community protected areas over sensitive seagrass habitats while limiting mechanized trawling activities in the state. Study author Tanvi Vaidyanathan said: “Although it appears that the ban has succeeded in restricting the direct extraction of seahorses by diving, any relief from this pressure appears to have been offset by the increased intensity of non-selective fishing such as trawling in recent years.

The seahorse, which is found between seagrass beds and coral reefs in tropical and temperate zones, varies from 5 cm to 36 cm depending on the species. Vaidyanathan, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, conducted extensive research along the Indian coast to collect data on fishers` awareness of the ban, the number and fate of seahorses caught, the method of trapping, the species caught, the prices at which seahorses were sold and other information. A total of 1145 structured and semi-structured interviews with fishermen were conducted in nine states and two EU territories over three periods, from July 2015 to September 2017. The first period covered the entire coast of India, while the second and third were concentrated in Tamil Nadu. Seahorse bycatch occurs all over the world. Recent commercial surveys estimate that 29 million seahorses are caught each year in Thailand; $16.7 million in Vietnam; and about 1.7 million in the Philippines. In addition to 3,600 species of flora and fauna, it has five species of seahorses. Just a few weeks ago, the Fisheries College and Research Institute in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, identified a new species of spiny seahorse called Hippocampus histrix. While the official investigation into smuggling focused on the port of Chennai, INDIA TODAY decided to spy at the source, the Gulf of Mannar, which includes the districts of Ramanathapuram, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari. Seahorses are on sale here.

Contact one of the links in the network of fishermen, wholesalers and exporters. With enough money, you can easily pocket a copy. Fishermen defy orders and sail to the 21 coral islands of the Gulf of Mannar to find ornamental fish and other rare marine animals. “Some days I fish up to 50 seahorses,” says Jamal, a fisherman from Keelaikarai village, 17 km from Ramanathapuram.