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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Advancing Seahorse Conservation Is A Must

“Protections for seahorses also benefit many other marine species and ecosystems.”

A monogamous lifestyle and male pregnancy aren’t the only things that distinguish seahorses from other marine life. Seahorses are also a flagship species, which means these charismatic fish act as ambassadors for a variety of marine conservation issues.
Every year, millions of seahorses are exploited for use as traditional medicines, tonic foods, aquarium exhibits, and souvenirs. Human activities are also degrading and destroying the coral reef, mangrove, seagrass, and estuary habitats they call home. Destructive fishing practices, particularly shrimp trawling, result in their accidental capture and contribute to habitat loss.
Scientists say continued overexploitation will result in severe population declines and that existing conservation efforts may not be enough to save them. Right now, 42 seahorse species are included on the IUCN Red List; of those, 14 are listed as vulnerable or worse while 17 are listed as data deficient, which means we don’t know enough about those species to assess their conservation status.
While we may not know everything about every species of seahorse, we do know enough to take action. By ending harmful fishing practices like bottom trawling and advocating for marine protected areas, we can better protect these vulnerable and overexploited species.
The best part is that protections for seahorses don’t just benefit seahorses. They also protect many other marine species and ecosystems. Ultimately, saving seahorses means saving the ocean.

How ocean plastic impacts seahorses.

Seahorses are voracious little predators, but they don’t have a stomach or teeth. These opportunistic ambush predators wait for prey to get close and use their long snouts to suck plankton and small crustaceans out of the water.
Adult seahorses eat between 30 and 50 times per day. Seahorse babies, called fry, eat 3,000 pieces of food per day. Seahorses have just milliseconds to make a decision and capture their prey, which means they don’t have time to distinguish prey from plastic. It’s possible that they’re ingesting microplastic, which can pose a serious threat to a digestive system that’s as fragile as it is unique.
Despite the fact that we know so little about how plastic pollution impacts seahorses, we do know that they often use anthropogenic, or man-made, materials as holdfasts. We also know that the shallow, coastal areas seahorses inhabit are highly influenced by human activities. Both plastic and chemical pollution are contributing factors in the degradation of these habitats, particularly coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds.

Seahorses are incredibly vulnerable to overexploitation.

Alive, seahorses are sold as aquarium exhibits or as pets in personal aquariums. Dead and dried, seahorses are used to create souvenirs and other crafts like jewelry. Yet traditional medicine remains the largest direct market for seahorses, which have been used as tonics and traditional medicines for more than 600 years.
It’s important to note that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is recognized by the World Health Organization as a valid form of healthcare and is trusted by about a quarter of the world’s population. Rather than debate the validity of TCM treatments, it’s important that conservation efforts stay focused on reducing the overconsumption of seahorses and promoting sustainable trade.

Shrimp trawling is one of the biggest threats to seahorses.

One of the simplest, most effective things we can do to help save seahorses and protect vital marine habitats around the world is to avoid eating farmed or trawled shrimp.
Bottom trawling is a devastating form of fishing that often leads to overfishing and illegal fishing. One or two boats drag a weighted net across an enormous swath of seafloor, extracting everything in its path. Pretty much all of the fish and invertebrates in the area are indiscriminately captured as the seabed is ripped apart. The catch is sorted by profitability and, more often than not, the miscellaneous pile of “trash fish” is far larger than the one considered profitable.
Every year, trawlers drag an area of seabed twice the size of the continental United States. At least 11 million seahorses are caught in trawl nets every year. For every kilogram of shrimp on our plates, an average of 10 kilograms of other marine life is unintentionally caught, only to be turned into fishmeal or discarded, dead or dying, back into the ocean.
In countries where restrictions or outright bans have been placed on seahorse trade, trawling creates a loophole that allows fishermen to profit off the accidental capture of seahorses.

Protecting seahorses protects the ocean.

Their charisma, near-global range, and vulnerability to overfishing and a wide range of pressing environmental issues make seahorses a flagship species for marine conservation.
Action for seahorse conservation directly benefits other marine animals and the marine environment, particularly when conservation measures include marine protected areas, fisheries management, improved governance, and trade controls.

We’re partnering with Project Seahorse to advance seahorse conservation.

Released in partnership with Project Seahorse, our Seahorse Bracelet highlights the urgent need to stop bottom trawling and protect these vulnerable flagship species, which will help protect many other marine animals and ecosystems as well.
Our $25,000 donation to Project Seahorse will help establish marine protected areas, improve national management, regulate global trade, and develop new science that advances seahorse conservation.
Project Seahorse is recognized as the world’s leading authority on seahorses. They were the first organization to study seahorses underwater, the first to uncover the massive global trade in seahorses, and were instrumental in achieving a series of landmark international protections for these marine fishes under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
While Project Seahorse is a science-based organization, they don’t do science for the sake of science; their research is always geared toward real-world conservation impact. They use an interdisciplinary approach that focuses on understanding the interdependencies between marine life and human communities, which often leads to effective and widely-adopted marine conservation initiatives.
Ultimately, Project Seahorse aims to accomplish three things: 1) save seahorses, 2) secure the world’s shallow seas, and 3) train conservationists to carry on the work they do locally all over the world.

Seahorse males are the only males on the planet that can get pregnant. Their babies are called fry.
Most seahorses mate for life and meet daily in an elaborate dance that reinforces their pair bonds
Seahorses use their prehensile tails to anchor themselves to objects in their environment and hold onto each other.

4ocean is a global movement actively removing trash from the ocean and coastlines while inspiring individuals to work together for a cleaner ocean, one pound at a time.



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