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Laksanawimol P., Petpiroon S., Damrongphol P. 2013. Trade of seahorses, Hippocampus spp. (Actinopterygii: Syngnathiformes: Syngnathidae), on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Acta Ichthyol. Piscat.  43 (3): 229-235.

Background. Live seahorses are traded mainly for ornamental markets owing to their unique features whereas dried seahorses are mainly traded for use in traditional Chinese medicines. Increased seahorse trade globally has posed a threat to seahorse populations worldwide. Thailand has been reported to be one of the major seahorse exporter countries, but study on seahorse fisheries and trade is limited. The presently reported study surveyed seahorse trade on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand.

Materials and methods. A total of 23 fishing ports, docks, and villages along the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand were surveyed from March 2011 through November 2012. The fishermen and primary traders were interviewed and samples of captured seahorses were examined aiming to assess the trade species and volumes, fishing method used, prices, trade routes, and the destinations of the trade.

Results. Live seahorses were obtained solely from artisanal fisheries and were mainly supplied for domestic, public, and home aquaria through primary and secondary traders. Live trade comprised 4 species, Hippocampus mohnikei Bleeker, 1854, H. kuda Bleeker, 1852, H. spinosissimus Weber, 1913, and H. trimaculatus Leach, 1814. The prices varied dependent on size and species. The majority of seahorse trade was from the dried trade, originating mainly from non-selective trawlers in middle scale fisheries. Three species, H. kuda, H. spinosissimus, and H. trimaculatus, were found in the dried trade. Dried seahorses were mainly exported for their use in traditional Chinese medicine. The prices of dried seahorses depended on their size and fishing method used. Trade routes of both live and dried seahorses involved several levels of traders; more levels of traders were involved in the dried trade.

Conclusion. Non-selective trawlers were the main source of seahorse supply along the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Restriction of fishing equipment used or defining protection areas may help conserving the seahorse population in Southeast Asia. Further surveys of seahorse distribution and trades covering Thai waters will provide complete information of trades in Thailand.

Keywords: seahorse trade, Hippocampus, fish trader, fishing equipment, aquarium, traditional Chinese medicine



DOI: 10.3750/AIP2013.43.3.07

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