Conservation charity The Seahorse Trust is campaigning against the sale of real seahorses on creative online marketplace Etsy.
Etsy has been found to allow the sale of real seahorses in jewellery and other trinkets. Seahorses dead or alive, whole or part thereof and even in antique items can’t be legally sold and yet they can be found for sale online. These creatures are protected under Appendix II of CITES.
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Millions and millions of seahorses are killed every year for fashion accessories, trinkets and Chinese medicine. It is projected that in 30 years seahorses will be extinct.
It is a legal requirement to be able to prove that the seahorses are harvested from a sustainable source (even though any harvesting of seahorses is morally wrong, whether sustainable or not). However, enquiries to date by The Seahorse Trust have shown that many sellers on Etsy are in contravention of CITES and legally should not be trading in seahorses and, if they do, they are actually required to have a CITES II certificate to accompany the object.
If they can in fact prove (and the emphasis on proof is that they have to have physical evidence if challenged by anyone) that the seahorses are from a sustainable source, then they can trade but if they cannot then it is illegal and as Etsy are the host they are also breaking the law as they are providing a platform and conspiring to sell a legally protected species. However, the harvesting of seahorses whether from a sustainable source or not is morally wrong and threatens the survival of these creatures.
It is also important to note that once sold the recipients are also bound by CITES as they have bought a CITES protected species.
The Seahorse Trust are asking Etsy to either ban the sale of seahorse products or, at the very least to ensure legal regulations are complied with; make it a requirement for sellers of seahorse products to ask for CITES proof when ads are submitted; as part of the advertising system – the seller could scan in the CITES certificate at the same time as scanning the photos to appear in the ad. Better that they should take the moral stance and ban the sale of seahorse products altogether, which Ebay have already done.
By allowing the sale of real seahorse products, online marketplaces such as Etsy are condoning this trade and also contributing to the demand for seahorse products and thereby their continued killing.