Ornamental Marine Species Culture in the Coral Triangle: Seahorse Demonstration Project in the Spermonde Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Ornamental marine species (‘OMS’) provide valuable income for developing nations in the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle, from which most of the specimens are exported. OMS culture can help diversify livelihoods in the region, in support of management and conservation efforts to reduce destructive fishing and collection practices that threaten coral reef and seagrass ecosystems. Adoption of OMS culture depends on demonstrating its success as a livelihood, yet few studies of OMS culture exist in the region. We present a case study of a land-based culture project for an endangered seahorse (Hippocampus barbouri) in the Spermonde Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia. The business model demonstrated that culturing can increase family income by seven times. A Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) analysis indicated good collaboration among diverse stakeholders and opportunities for culturing non-endangered species and for offshoot projects, but complicated permitting was an issue as were threats of market flooding and production declines. The OMS international market is strong, Indonesian exporters expressed great interest in cultured product, and Indonesia is the largest exporting country for H. barbouri. Yet, a comparison of Indonesia ornamental marine fish exports to fish abundance in a single local market indicated that OMS culture cannot replace fishing livelihoods. Nevertheless, seahorse and other OMS culture can play a role in management and conservation by supplementing and diversifying the fishing and collecting livelihoods in the developing nations that provide the majority of the global OMS.