Seahorses are endangered because they have relatively low birth rates, exist in small population pockets and face threats from humans through habitat alteration, fishing and exploitation. Seahorses face risks from direct human action, such as poaching and trade, as well as from fishing equipment and long-term impacts like climate change. As with many animals, some species of seahorses fare worse than others, and while some classify as endangered, others are listed as threatened.
Seahorses have a unique appearance among marine animals, which makes them highly prized as pets and decorative items in certain cultures. In Asia, seahorses are valued for their use in traditional Chinese medicine. Illegal harvesting and poaching of seahorses for continued medicinal use threatens their populations, as does harvesting for ornamental use.
Trade of live seahorses also threatens their existence. Seahorses are popular pets in many cultures, including the United States. Demand for seahorses as domestic pets continues to drive their harvest in large numbers.
Changes to conditions in sensitive marine habitats also jeopardize the health of seahorses. They face loss of habitat from many human activities and even suffer from onshore activities like deforestation. Pollutants leaching into marine environments pose a risk to seahorses, as do fishing and other marine activities.