Are Seahorses Becoming Extinct?

Elisa D’Ortenzio

Today, there are so many threats to the various ecosystems and the animals that live in them that it has become hard to keep track of them all.  One animal that seems to receive little attention is the seahorse, even as many believe the seahorse to be a flagship of endangered marine habitats of the world and indicators of the heath of coral reefs where they live.  The effect of their loss would cause an imbalance in the ecosystem creating lasting detrimental consequences as they are predators of bottom-dwelling organisms.

Seahorses are fish that have fascinated people due to their horse-shaped heads, kangaroo-like pouches, and monkey-like tails.  Still fascinating is that the male seahorses give birth to the offspring.  Every year about 20 million seahorses are harvested live from the world’s oceans.  The future of many species of seahorse are now in question as threats such as pollution, habitat loss and accidental fishing increasingly reduce their populations.  The biggest threat these fish face though, come from the unsustainable harvesting of seahorses for the aquarium trade, curio trade (dried and sold as souvenirs) and for use in traditional medicines.  Millions of seahorses, corals and other marine animals are collected alive and dried as souvenirs and utilized as curios with a high availability in beach resorts and shell shops around the world while the greatest number of harvested seahorses are imported to Asia. 

Since 2004, the seahorse has been listed as a threatened species under Appendix II by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.  This has been helpful by requiring member nations to ensure that their exports of these species are sustainable.  But much of the power to stop this lies in the hands of consumers.  Consumers are greatly influential because they can stop supporting industries that are detrimentally affecting these fish.  It is important to make educated decisions when purchasing products such as seafood as certain fishing methods destroy habitats and scoop up seahorses and along with other organisms, such as shrimp trawlers.  It is also important to stop purchasing souvenir or other products made with seahorses.

The fate of seahorses and other small fish may seem insignificant but these unique fish are not the only ones affected by human exploitation.  Their declining numbers represent the threats to the marine ecosystems and the health of our oceans.

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2 Responses

  1. [...] Animal Blawg: Are Seahorses Becoming Extinct? [...]

  2. Hi I would like to know if you can get a pet seahorse? I you can would you look in petsmart or a fish place?

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