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India’s ban on Catching Seahorses is proving ‘useless’

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    29th Jul, 2021


A new study reveals that about 13 million seahorses are estimated to be caught in bycatch annually between 2015 and 2017. However, the catch and trade of seahorses have been banned in India. 

About the Seahorses

  • A seahorse is any of 46 species of small marine fish of the genus Hippocampus.
  • Seahorses are mainly found in the shallow tropical and temperate saltwater throughout the world, from about 45°S to 45°N.
  • They live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. 
  • Jayakar's seahorse (Hippocampus jayakari) is the species of coastal fish of the family
    • It is found in the Western Indian Ocean, from the Red and Arabian seas to the central coast of Pakistan.
    • They have a head and neck suggestive of a horse.
  • Seahorses also feature segmented bony armour, an upright posture and a curled prehensile tail.
  • Their prehensile tail is composed of square-like rings which can be unlocked only in the most extreme conditions.
  • They show camouflage and can grow and reabsorb spiny appendages that depend on their habitat.

Conservation measures

  • In 2001, seahorses were placed in Schedule I under India’s Wildlife Protection Act 1972 which banned the extraction and trade.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed all seahorse species in Appendix II.


  • The ban has not been effective to control seahorse extraction and it adds to growing concerns on the use of bans for the conservation of species accidentally captured in the commercial fishing nets and hooks, which are referred to as ‘incidental catch’ or ‘bycatch’.
  • Tamil Nadu (including Puducherry) emerged as the highest catch state where a median of 75% of the annual seahorse catches occurred, followed by Orissa (16.8%) and Andhra Pradesh (3.4%).


  • The traditional draggers establish community-based protected areas over sensitiveseagrass habitats
  • bycatch reduction measure