Thousands of endangered seahorses killed each year as bycatch in Palk Bay: study
A study by a Kerala-based academic shows how seahorses are affected by commercial fishing in Palk Bay. Between August 2018 and July 2019, Shalu Kannan, a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies of Kerala (KUFOS) embarked between 10 and 15 mini-trawlers each month, in search of two endangered species of ‘seahorses, Kuda seahorse and H. trimaculatus, encountered as bycatch.
The study shows that both of these seahorse species are vulnerable to overfishing, and there is an urgent need to develop species-specific conservation guidelines and implement them on the ground.
The results were published last month in Marine and freshwater research.
Latest news from my lab run by @ ShaluKannan08 discusses the demographics of #threatens #hippocampus Bay of Bengal species showing high vulnerability to overexploitation even as bycatch https://t.co/h8A5JrJLXR@CSIROPublishing @projectseahorse @IUCNSeahorse @CITES @ AmandaVincent1 pic.twitter.com/XhMMbWdNq5
– Rajeev Raghavan (@LabRajeev) November 27, 2021
The spotted seahorse, H. kuda, and the three-point hippocampus, H. trimaculatus, are two widely distributed species with a lifespan of two to three years. Although both species are listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA), 1972, they are heavily exploited due to their high value in the traditional Chinese medicine markets and trade in traditional Chinese medicine. aquariums.
“The family of Syngnathidae (seahorses and pipefish) benefits from the same protection granted to tigers. There is a ban on all forms of capture and trade from the country. However, both species are currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and their populations are declining worldwide, ”says Shalu.
“We are currently doing a nationwide survey to understand if there is an awareness among fishermen. The results which will be published soon show that the fishermen of Tamil Nadu are the most sensitive to seahorses. Although they know it is a protected species, the illegal trade continues. We urgently need to raise public awareness of pipefish in our country, ”she adds.
“Using mathematical models based on the length frequency of seahorse samples taken as bycatch, we estimated mortality rates and exploitation levels and found that both species face fishing pressure. extreme in the Palk Bay area. Such studies need to be undertaken in other places along the east and west coasts of India to better understand seahorse fishing pressure, ”says K. Ranjeet, associate professor and head of the environmental management department. aquatic, KUFOS who supervised the work in an email to indianexpress.com.
An article published last year by an international team showed that between 4.98 and 13.64 million seahorses land as bycatch each year from the southeast coast of India.
“Despite being listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), dried seahorses continue to be illegally exported from our country. Catching and marketing an animal listed in the Indian Wildlife Law can result in both imprisonment and a fine, ”says Professor Rajeev Raghavan, one of the authors of the Department of Fisheries Resource Management , KUFOS, Kochi.
“Restrictions on non-selective fishing gear such as trawls and fine mesh nets in coastal habitats, coupled with habitat restoration, are ways of restoring seahorse populations. Captive breeding and sea-breeding of seahorses is yet another option, currently hampered by collection regulations. Regular monitoring of the seahorse fishery and trade and increased awareness among fishermen are other management options, ”says Dr A. Biju Kumar, Professor and Head of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries at the University of Kerala who was not involved in the work.