Seahorses are odd little creatures. Although they are a fish, they are slow swimmers (except when actively hunting) and usually spend most of their time anchored to plants. They eat by sucking up small crustaceans that float within range, and it is the male, rather than the female, that gestates the fertilized eggs.
They are also, unfortunately, widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, and sometimes served up as street food in many eastern countries. Thus, researchers have reason to believe that as many as 48 species of seahorse should be on a list of threatened species. It is very difficult to make good decisions about conservation policies, however, because seahorses are small, mostly stationary, and very well camouflaged. In other words, it is very hard to get a good idea of how big the seahorse populations are, and where they live.
That’s where you come in. With iSeahorse, you use your smart phone to record your observations of seahorses in the wild. These are then posted to the iSeahorse website with a time and GPS stamp for researchers to index. You can also browse the data as it comes in to learn about where you can find seahorses in your area.
Another way you can help seahorse conservation is to avoid eating… shrimp. Shrimp farming is a major source of mangrove habitat destruction, and shrimp trawling drags an area of seabed twice the size of the continental United States every year. Not only does this destroy the sea floor, but estimates are that some 2.2 million seahorses are caught in trawl nets every year. If you would like to continue to eat shrimp, source from certified organic farms.
Finally, just in case you need another reason to pay attention to seahorses: according to the Chinese calendar, it’s the Year of the Horse. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but work with me on this one!