The Complexities of Managing Non-Food Fisheries,
With a Focus on Seahorses

Amanda Vincent - William Dawson Scholar & Associate Professor of Biology, McGill University,
                                                 Director Project Seahorse

Seminar Abstract:

The ecological and economic impacts of non-food fisheries are little understood.  Seahorses offer an unusual case study of the challenges of assessing and managing such exploitation.  These fishes are sold for use as traditional medicines, aquarium fishes and curiosities.  Research on seahorse fisheries has proven difficult, because they are targeted by small-scale fishers and caught incidentally by non-selective fishing gear: both produce diffuse and undocumented landings.  Current estimates are, however, that at least 20 million seahorses were traded globally in 1995, with some retail prices reaching US$1200 per kg.  The dearth of biological knowledge on these fishes, and the natures of seahorse fishing and trading communities, make their management challenging.  Consultations are currently underway to determine appropriate and acceptable limits and guidelines to exploitation.  Designation of marine protected areas and limits to removal of pregnant males appear to be among the preferred approaches.  Other nascent seahorse management initiatives, particularly aquaculture ventures and trade controls, may be of mixed value and need careful consideration.  Ensuring sustainable use of seahorses promotes development of research and management techniques that should be of broad value for other non-food fisheries, the nature of which is gradually emerging.

Speaker Bio:

Dr Amanda Vincent is Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at McGill University, Montréal, Canada.  She has a Hons. B.Sc. from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, England.  She also held posts as a Visiting Fellow in Sweden and Germany, and was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, England for five years.  In 2000, McGill University named her a William Dawson Scholar, the internal equivalent of a prestigious Tier II Canada Research Chair.

In 1996, Dr. Vincent co-founded Project Seahorse , an organisation whose goal is to advance marine conservation in general by focusing on specific case studies.  As Director, she guides an international team in a integrated programme to conserve and manage seahorses, their relatives and their habitats, while respecting human needs.  Project Seahorse works with partners to undertake fundamental biological research, empower local communities, establish marine protected areas, manage subsistence fisheries, restructure international trade, advance environmental education, promote integrated policy, and redress habitat loss.  The group has 30-35 professional team members (plus village staff) working in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Philippines, Portugal, UK, and USA.  Project Seahorse has also managed projects in South Africa and Vietnam, and maintains strong collaborations with colleagues in many more countries.

Dr. Vincent was the first person to study seahorses underwater, the first to document the extensive trade in these fishes and the first to initiate a seahorse conservation project.  Her advocacy work for marine conservation earned Dr. Vincent the 1994 Whitley Award in Animal Conservation (from the Royal Geographical Society in the United Kingdom) and the 1997 Grand Prix International pour l'Environment Marin (from the Conféderation Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques).  In 1998, she also became the first Canadian winner of the highly competitive Rolex Award for Enterprise (Environment).  In 1999, TIME Canada named her a Leader for the 21st Century and La Presse (the leading North American French language newspaper) named her Personality of the Year for Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Technology.  Dr. Vincent was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation in 2000, for her analyses and advocacy in non-food fisheries.

As a member of the Steering Committee of the Species Survival Commission of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Dr. Vincent has held special responsibility for coastal species, and is widely consulted on marine management and policy issues.  Among her other professional interests are extraordinary (non-food) fisheries and the reproductive ecology of fishes and other marine organisms.  Dr. Vincent has written many scientific papers, popular articles and policy briefings.  She published the first monograph on the international trade in seahorses in 1996 and then co-authored a book on seahorses in 1999.  Her work has been documented in four full-length television programmes, and has been the subject of extensive coverage by the world's media. Her background includes extensive rough travel through more than 60 countries


Sadovy, Y.J. and A.C.J. Vincent. 2002. Ecological Issues and the Trades
in Live Reef Fishes In: Sale, P.F. 2001. ed. Coral Reef Fishes: Dynamics
and diversity in a complex ecosystem. Academic Press, San Diego

Vincent, A.C.J. 1997. Sustainability of seahorse fishing. pp 2045-2050 in
Proceedings of the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium, Panama, 1996.


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