Spotted seahorses are listed as vulnerable under the World Conservation Union’s IUCN Red List and are on the CITES Appendix II (Lally and Hough, 1999). Population numbers of H. kuda in the wild are unknown but scientists, conservationists, and traders agree that populations have declined by at least 30% due to habitat destruction, pollution, bycatch, trades in traditional Chinese medicine, curios, and aquaria (Lally and Hough, 1999; Project Seahorse et al, 2003). There is little legal oversight or regulation on trading, and few countries require permits (Lally and Hough, 1999).
Scientists predict further declines in H. kuda population without immediate intervention (Lally and Hough, 1999). Implementing effective conservation methods has been hampered by confusion over H. kuda taxonomy, which has been driven by the difficulty in morphologically distinguishing them from their relatives, their ability to camouflage, current lack of descriptions, and unestablished, independent naming designations (Lourie et al., 1999). Taxonomic definitions must be established first before researchers can confidently understand the biology, ecology, and relative abundance of spotted seahorses.
Seahorse farming is currently being developed as an alternative strategy to conserve native seahorse populations while helping fishers to continue earning a sustainable income (Job et al., 2002). Initial research of H. kuda’s ability to grow and survive appears very promising, but further research is needed to determine whether aquaculturing of the spotted seahorse on a more larger scale effectively meets the high market demand while preventing further depletion of native populations.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status