Endangered Species

Why seahorses are important in our Aquatic worlds… and introducing Project Seahorse

“It is this high demand on wild stocks which has left seahorse on the endangered list, with seahorse fisheries reporting a minimum decline of 50% in fisheries over the last five years. Through our research we have discovered that seahorses will become extinct in the next 20 – 30 years. Are we going to sit back and let seahorses become the dinosaurs of our generation?” (Save Our Seahorses, http://www.saveourseahorses.org/the-seahorse-dilemma.php)

Tonight I learned about an aquatic conservation project that has been started by a group of students and individuals in a local university: it’s called ‘Project Seahorse‘ and these lovely people are inspiring the world to prevent ocean fishing and save our seahorse friends!

The lovely humans at Project Seahorse are working very hard to save seahorses in a rare, double barrier reef in Portugal by preventing overfishing in the area and setting up no-fishing zones that are monitored by groups in near-by communities. They’re also inspiring activists and people to help the cause by bringing attention and interest to their project by inviting and allowing photographers to document the non-humans in the reef and sharing them online, and eventually in a book for us to see!

“Project Seahorse is a marine conservation organisation committed to the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s coastal marine ecosystems. We generate cutting-edge research and turn our findings into highly effective conservation interventions. We collaborate with other researchers, governments, and local communities.” (Project Seahorse)

They have some amazing achievements such as organizing more than 1,000 families to enforce action against fishermen in no-fishing zones, created 33 protected areas in the Philipines, reconciled conflicting interests in coastal marine conservation, and helped educated and make traditional Chinese medicine ecological and sustainable.

About Seahorses:

“A lot of seahorse species are endangered or in the risk of becoming endangered in the near future, and it is therefore important to research the species you are interested in. The situation regarding which species that are legal to purchase and which species that are prohibited can change fast and it is always important to seek out current information instead of relaying on old recommendations.

Spotted seahorse(Hippocampus kuda) and Tiger tail seahorse(Hippocampus comes) are currently (2008) not considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are however considered vulnerable, which means that there is a significant risk of them becoming endangered in the near future. For the Dwarf seahorse(Hippocampus zosterae) and the Longsnout seahorse(Hippocampus reidi) there is not enough data to know if there are endangered or not. More research is necessary before anyone can now. You can find current and updated information by visiting www.iucnredlist.org.” (Aquatic Community, http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/Sea-horses/)

“By working to protect seahorses, Project Seahorse supports marine conservation more broadly. We generate cutting-edge research and turn our findings into highly effective conservation interventions — usually in collaboration with other researchers, governments, and local communities.

A holistic approach to conservation

We find marine conservation solutions by understanding interdependencies between marine life and human communities. Concentric pressures bear down on individual animals, making an “onion world” in which each layer affects the others. Biological seahorse research is at the centre and we progress outward from there through marine populations, ecosystems, fishing communities, national and global trade issues, policy and public outreach.

Through our work, we:

Why Seahorses?

“Seahorse are important predators on bottom-dwelling organisms; removing them may disrupt ecosystems. Their unusual life history — only the male becomes pregnant and pairs are monogamous in many species — offers an opportunity to explore our understanding of reproductive ecology. Their use in traditional medicine, aquarium displays, and as curios means they are much traded.” (Project Seahorse)

Being Sustainable:

“Subsistence fishers in some nations make a substantial portion of their annual income catching seahorses, and many forms of traditional medicine employ seahorses to treat a range of conditions and ailments. While seahorse fishing is generally a legitimate practice, such extraction must be kept at sustainable levels. From our experience, conservation solutions are often readily adopted when they protect the long-term future of a valuable resource such as seahorses. A sustainable seahorse trade can provide such economic incentives to the fishers and traders who depend on the animals for their livelihood.” (Project Seahorse)

Seahorses Being Used in Large Quantities for Traditional Medicines:

“The majority of fished seahorses go to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a valid form of healthcare, and is trusted by one-quarter of the world’s population.

Traditional medicine trade (TCM) industry takes approximately 150 million seahorses per year from the wild for use mainly as natural aphrodisiacs. However, our research has discovered a worrying new trend for dosing Chinese children with seahorse pills in the belief it will spur growth. Seahorses have also been proven to have high levels of collagen, which is encouraging Chinese woman to use it as a substitute for Botox.

Dried seahorses retails from US$600 – 3000 per kilogram with larger, paler and smoother animals commanding the highest prices. In fact, in terms of value based on weight seahorses retail for more than the price of silver and almost that of gold in Asia. (UNEP,2004).” (Save Our Seahorses, http://www.saveourseahorses.org/the-seahorse-dilemma.php)

The Trade for Curiosity:

Well seahorses are well, CUTE! Cute as pets, cute as dead curiosities. They fascinate people and people want them. Which means, they are caught, removed from our oceans. Killed. Alive. Either way, they are not reproducing in the wild and eventually they will die in captivity. It is estimated that 1 million seahorses die ANNUALLY for the curiosity trade, and another 1 million sold in the aquarium trade. Lovely.

“More than 20 million seahorses are caught from the wild each year to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine market. People in Asia have been using seahorses for thousands of years as a cure for a variety of ailments. According to Project Seahorse over 70 countries are involved in the wild seahorse trade. They are harvested throughout the year but especially from August to September. Major sources include the Philippines, Indonesia and India. Wild populations of seahorses used in Traditional Medicine are under threat due to the extremely high demand.” (Seahorse-Austrailia, http://www.seahorse-australia.com.au/pages/chinese_med.html)

So what can we do to help? What will you do as an individual to prevent this? Will you raise awareness by blogging about this? Will you not buy a seahorse as a pet? Tell your friends and family not to buy dead seahorse souvenirs on their vacations? Spread the word?

Learn about this conservation project and more about what they are doing to save the seahorses.

See more about Project Seahorse here

Other Seahorse Websites sourced in this post, some also working to save seahorses!

Save Our Seahorses, http://www.saveourseahorses.org/the-seahorse-dilemma.php

Aquatic Community, http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/Sea-horses/

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3 thoughts on “Why seahorses are important in our Aquatic worlds… and introducing Project Seahorse

  1. My grade 7 students understand the significance of losing even one species in any ecosystem. Why can’t the rest of us?
    I think that any project that attempts to protect a species on the decline because of “our” irresponsibility is to be commended. But, when it comes to marine species, those efforts must be combined with the fight to limit carbon emissions. Increased CO2, because of its ability to trap heat, is causing the oceans to warm. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, CO2 dissolves in water, making carbonic acid. So as CO2 concentrations increase, the oceans are getting more acidic (currently, the increase in ocean acidity is about 30% above pre-industrial acidity). The more acidic the water, the harder it is for shelled organisms to make their shells. (Put a seashell in vinegar. It’s quite impressive!) This includes organisms that are the foundation of many marine ecosystems.

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