The project team's work will help prepare the CITES Authorities who deal with marine species for a sudden and significant change in Philippines' domestic fisheries policy that could potentially lead immediately to unregulated exports of seahorses and other marine species listed on CITES Appendix II (e.g. sharks, manta rays, corals, giant clams, humphead wrasse).
Unfortunately the new legislation places the burden on science - to prove that exports are not sustainable - and not on trade as required under CITES.
It is critical that the CITES Authorities in the Philippines step in to scrutinize and control exports, and quickly. Capacity training for Philippines CITES Authorities for marine species is central to this activity.
Seahorses must be protected for biological, ecological, and economic reasons.
Their extraordinary life history - only the male becomes pregnant and some species are seasonally monogamous - provides us with an unusual opportunity to expand our understanding of reproductive ecology. They are important predators on bottom-dwelling organisms; removing them may disrupt coastal ecosystems.
They are also an important source of income and food security for subsistence fishers in the Philippines, as well as many other parts of the world. Protections for seahorses benefit many other marine species and ecosystems.
The project team will equip the Philippines CITES Authorities with the basic tools, capacity and expert advice to understand and appreciate their CITES obligations and to limit exports of seahorses to sustainable levels under new national fisheries laws.
The project's goal is to prevent over-exploitation and ensure legal international trade does not exceed sustainable levels. This will be achieved through three sets of activities:
1) Consolidating existing information on seahorse identification, biology, habitats, threats and conservation action.
2) Increasing national capacity for implementing CITES with a focus on non-detriment findings (NDFs).
3) Implementation of adaptive management plan for seahorse fisheries and trade in Philippines.
The project has two stated outcomes: The Philippines is equipped with the tools, capacity and expert advice needed to make exploitation and exports of seahorses sustainable under new national fisheries laws.
The Philippines CITES Management and Scientific Authorities for marine species understand their roles in implementing CITES and are prepared to embark on them for seahorses and other Appendix II listed marine species.