Conservation status

A relatively large number of gasterosteiform species are listed by the IUCN. Most of the threats that these species face are related to the pervasive seahorse trade, especially in southeastern and eastern Asia, and to widespread habitat degradation. Gasterosteiforms generally are not directly consumed in quantities that would otherwise place them in dan ger of overexploitation. Overexploitation of seahorses is a result of their use as ingredients for prepackaged medicines, where demand far exceeds supply, and for the curio and aquarium trade. Many species live in coastal or estuarine habitats, which typically are more affected by development and pollution. Furthermore, the vulnerability of seahorses is enhanced by their low fecundity, parental care, and complex social structures. The IUCN presently includes in their compilation of threatened taxa about 51 species of gaster-osteiformes. The majority of species are listed either as Data Deficient or Vulnerable (all species of seahorses and many species of pipefishes). The Cape seahorse (Hippocampus capen-sis) is listed as Endangered (mostly due to commercial development of its restricted habitat), and the stickleback (Pungitius hellenicus) and the river pipefish (Syngnathus wa-termeyeri) are listed as Critically Endangered. Conservation efforts, mostly geared toward seahorses, are presently being undertaken by Project Seahorse, a praiseworthy initiative that aims to promote the sustainable exploitation of seahorses and their relatives.

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