Hippocampus ingens 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Syngnathiformes Syngnathidae

Scientific Name: Hippocampus ingens Girard, 1858
Common Name(s):
English Giant Seahorse, Pacific Seahorse
Spanish Caballito Del Pacifico, Caballito De Mar
Hippocampus ecuadorensis Fowler, 1922
Hippocampus gracilis Gill, 1862
Hippocampus hildebrandi Ginsburg, 1933
Taxonomic Source(s): Zhang, H., Zhang, Y., and Lin, Q. 2014. Complete mitochondrial genome of the pacific seahorse Hippocampus ingens Girard, 1858 (Gasterosteiformes: Syngnathidae). Mitochondrial DNA 26(5): 755-756.
Taxonomic Notes: The order for this Family has changed from Syngnathiformes to Gasterosteiformes (Nelson 2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2011-08-18
Assessor(s): Czembor, C.A., Rojas, A. & Acero, A.
Reviewer(s): Collen, B., Richman, N., Beresford, A., Chenery, A., Ram, M. & Foster, S.
Contributor(s): Wiswedel, S.

This species is widely distributed in the Eastern Pacific region, but is considered rare throughout its range. Although there is limited information on changes in population numbers of this species, local estimates of population declines of between 50 and 90% have been reported. It is therefore conservatively suspected that population declines of at least 30% haven taken place over a period of 10 years, and that declines are continuing. 

Declines result from targeted catch, incidental capture, and habitat degradation from coastal development. Once caught, H. ingens are used throughout Latin America for curios, occasionally in traditional medicine, and in the live aquarium trade. The vast majority are exported internationally for use in traditional medicine. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable under Criterion A2cd+4cd.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is endemic to the Eastern Pacific, and is found from Southern California through the Gulf of California to Peru, including the Cocos, Malpelo and Galápagos Islands (Anon. 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador (Ecuador (mainland), Galápagos); El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – southeast
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):60
Upper depth limit (metres):1
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species was modestly abundant in the Galapagos, but is now rare. It is not common in Malpelo or Gorgona Island and there is a decreasing abundance suspected in the Gulf of California.

Interviews with shrimp fishers on the Pacific coast of Mexico in 2000 estimated that CPUE of H. ingens had declined from hundreds or thousands caught per month to tens or none (a decline of 75–90% of estimated catch relative to the previous 15–30 years) attributed to overexploitation and trade (Baum and Vincent 2005). Declines were also seen in Ecuador, and were likely due to heavy fishing pressure. Target H. ingens fisheries on the Pacific coasts of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru have experienced declines of approximately 50% in a similar time period (Baum and Vincent 2005). It is therefore conservative to estimate a decline of just 30% over its entire range over the past three generations, which is suspected to continue, if not accelerate, into the future.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This reef-associated species inhabits weed beds, sea-whips and gorgonians, usually at depths of 1—20 m. It is also known to be associated with flotsam as it has been collected at the surface and from the stomachs of the Pacific Yellowfin Tuna and Bluefin Tuna (Humann and Deloach 1993, Lourie et al. 2004). Maximum recorded depth for this species is 60 m. This species is sometimes caught by tuna purse seiners in the open ocean, possibly from drifting algae.
Generation Length (years):0-2

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is of commercial importance for the international aquarium trade (Sánchez 1997) the traditional medicinal trades and as curios (Baum and Vincent 2005, Evanson et al. 2011). CITES trade data reported that approximately 155,000 H. ingens individuals were traded internationally each year between 2004 and 2010 (UNEP-WCMC 2012).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is of commercial importance for the international aquarium trade (Sánchez 1997) the traditional medicinal trades and as curios (Baum and Vincent 2005, Evanson et al. 2011). It is often caught as by-catch in the shrimp fisheries in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru and surveys of Latin America have estimated that between 199,000 and 380,000 seahorses are incidentally caught on the Pacific coast each year (Baum and Vincent 2005). It is commercially exported from, Peru, Mexico, and the US (UNEP-WCMC 2012). There is also anecdotal evidence from fishers and traders of declines in seahorse availability, which raises concerns for this species (Baum and Vincent 2005).

This species may be particularly susceptible to decline resulting from degradation of habitat from coastal development, tourism and fisheries because they inhabit relatively shallow areas (Lourie et al. 2004) where these threats are most pronounced. Like most seahorses, H. ingens have been shown to have high site fidelity and relatively small broods (Lourie et al. 2004,Saarman et al. 2010), which makes them sensitive to disturbance and limits their potential for recovery.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed on CITES in Appendix II. 

There are no known conservation measures for this species however, this species distribution falls into a number of Marine Protected Areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (WDPA 2006). Hippocampus ingens is listed on Mexico’s NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001 as a species subject to special protection; intentional capture and trade of wild seahorses is prohibited. In Panama, H. ingens are included under the Ministry of Agriculture’s decree 19.450, which regulates the extraction of coral reef fishes.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.2. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.7. Marine Intertidal - Mangrove Submerged Roots
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.3. Sub-national level
6. Livelihood, economic & other incentives -> 6.1. Linked enterprises & livelihood alternatives

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Harvest management plan:Yes
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.3. Tourism & recreation areas
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Handicrafts, jewellery, etc.

♦  Pets/display animals, horticulture
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Anon. 2002. Hippocampus erectus; Hippocampus ingens; Hippocampus reidi. In: M. Luz Stella Mejia & P. Arturo Acero (ed.), Libro rojo de peces marinos de Colombia, pp. 77-83.

Baum, J.K. and Vincent, A.C.J. 2005. Magnitude and inferred impacts of the seahorse trade in Latin America. Environmental Conservation 32(4): 305-319.

Breder, C.M. and Rosen, D.E. 1966. Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey, USA.

Evanson, M., Foster, S. J. & Vincent, A. C. J. 2011. Tracking the international trade of seahorses (Hippocampus species) - The importance of CITES. Fisheries Centre Research Reports 19(2). Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Girard, C. 1858. Fishes In General: report upon zoology for the several Pacific railroad routes, 1857. U. S. Senate Misc. Doc. 78: 1-400.

Humann, P. and Deloach, N. 1993. Reef fish identification: Galápagos. New World Publications, Florida, USA.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Lourie, S.A., Foster, S.J., Cooper, E.W.T. and Vincent, A.C.J. 2004. A Guide to the Identification of Seahorses. Project Seahorse and TRAFFIC North America, University of British Columbia and World Wildlife Fund, Washington D.C.

Lourie, S.A., Vincent, A.C.J. and Hall, H.J. 1999. Seahorses: an identification guide to the world's species and their conservation. Project Seahorse, London, U.K.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken.

Saarman, N. P., Louie, K. D., and Hamilton, H. 2010. Genetic differentiation across eastern Pacific oceanographic barriers in the threatened seahorse Hippocampus ingens. Conservation Genetics 11(5): 1989-2000.

Sánchez, A.C. 1997. Listado taxonomico de las especies marinas identificadas en los océanos Pacífico y Atlántico (Caribe) de Nicaragua. In: MEDE PESCA (ed.). Ministerio de Economía y Desarrollo, Managua, Nicaragua.

UNEP-WCMC. 2012a. CITES trade statistics derived from the CITES Trade Database. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.

UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre/ IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. 2006. World Database on Protected Areas. Available at: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/wdpa/index.htm.

WDPA. 2006. Database on Protected Areas. A database online managed by UNEP-WCMC/IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). Available at: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/wdpa/index.htm.

Citation: Czembor, C.A., Rojas, A. & Acero, A. 2012. Hippocampus ingens. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T10072A497017. . Downloaded on 21 November 2017.
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