Biology, fishery and trade of sea moths (Pisces: Pegasidae) in the central Philippines
Sea moths (family Pegasidae) are little-studied benthic fish, found throughout the Indo-Pacific. Two species of sea moths, Pegasus volitans and Eurypegasus draconis, are caught incidentally in illegal trawl gear in the Philippines and sold into the dried fish trade. Approximately 130,000–620,000 P. volitans and 130,000 E. draconis were landed off north-western Bohol alone in 1996. An additional 43,000–62,000 sea moths (predominantly P. volitans) were caught live for the aquarium trade. Catch per unit effort for P. volitans was double that of E. draconis, probably because of its occurrence in shallower waters where fishing effort was concentrated. Sea moths may be unsuited for heavy exploitation as they occur at low densities. Moreover, a female-biased catch could lower the effective population size, given the reported monogamy amongst sea moths. No population data were available for a complete conservation assessment, although divers surveyed did report declines in their abundance.(Received October 28 2002)
(Revised October 14 2003)
(Accepted January 19 2004)
Key Words: Aquarium trade; bycatch; Eurypegasus draconis; Pegasidae; Pegasus volitans; Philippines; sea moths; traditional medicine.
c1 Correspondence: Project Seahorse-Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Cebu, Philippines. E-mail [email protected]
p1 Present address: Project Seahorse, Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, 2204 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada