Endangered Oceanic Species 

CCetacea   Fish   Manatees & Dugongs   Polar Bears   Seahorses   Sea Birds   Sea Turtles   Seals   Sharks






These remarkable creatures, fish really, live in coastal and estuarine habitats the world over. Seahorses, sea dragons and pipefish have adaptations that are unlike those of any other fish: tube like mouths, exquisite grasping tails, rigid bodies, rotating eyes that move independently and the ability to change color  to match the surrounding plants. Human development has destroyed  a large portion of their natural habitats around the world, and fisheries harvest, based primarily on folk medicinal uses and souvenir production (the dried carcasses are sold as souvenirs..) results in a kill of 200,000,000 seahorses each year!

"It is estimated  that there are currently 32 species of seahorses around the world, ranging in size from 1-30 cm. The majority of seahorses are found in the shallow waters of the West Atlantic or the Indo-Pacific regions while two species can be found off the south coast of Britain. Seahorses belong to the family Syngnathidae, along with pipefishes, pipehorses and seadragons, all of which are thought to have evolved at least forty million years ago. Seahorses are unusual in that it is the male who becomes pregnant, carrying the developing young in his brood pouch. 

Many seahorse species were added to the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Animals in 1996. Both heavy exploitation and habitat degradation are contributing to declines of up to 15-70% in many seahorse populations over periods of 5-10 years. At least twenty million seahorses are traded each year - the majority used as traditional medicines. The aquarium trade also deals in live seahorses, despite the fact that they are difficult to keep in an aquarium. In this way, a vicious circle is created: aquarium owners often replace the dead ones, thereby contributing to their continuing decline. Seahorses are also traded as tacky souvenirs, incorporated in shell craft, yo-yos and other curios.

Seahorses are found in nearshore habitats that are among the most threatened in the world. Degradation and destruction of these coastal ecosystems due to mangrove cutting, coral mining, dynamite fishing, trawling, land-derived pollution and a host of other human activities negatively affect these threatened species."  

FACT: Twenty millions seahorses are taken from the wild each year for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The World Health Organization recognizes that this approach to medicine has been used for centuries; however many scientists now doubt that the wild populations can sustain current harvests. The tragic element in this equation, from the standpoint of western empirical science, is that an unsubstantiated claim, perhaps just a superstition -"beneficial powers from seahorses" - is driving these animals towards the point of extinction in this region. The solution is clear -immediate education regarding harvesting of seahorses (as in the WHO Project Seahorse), followed by real scientific study to determine once and for all if there really is something to the claim, and if not, then cultural change in the light of the scientific facts. The burden for this, in my eyes, lies with the modern Chinese scientific community.

FACT:  Closer to home, research has shown that nearly 90% -Yes 90%!! of the natural sea grass beds in the Chesapeake Bay have disappeared over the past 50-100 years. Seahorses and pipefish have small home ranges, so the loss of these beds has a devastating effect. The exact number of population decline of seahorses in the Bay is not known, but the general scientific conclusion is that they have taken a major hit. Currently, conservation groups, scientists and volunteers are re-planting sea grass beds along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastal areas. It is hoped that this massive effort will prevent the inevitable extinction of these lovely creatures that is certain to come without this intervention.



WildInvest: Direct Investment in Endangered Species: Seahorses

WWF: Wildlife Trade -Seahorses



American Museum of Natural History Statement  

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species

Professor David  Ulansey's Website -Mass Extinction Underway