Wild seahorse being handled by researcher in seahorse conservation study/

Seahorses and their relatives the sygnathids, found across the globe, face an ever-increasing number of threats to their survival. From harvest for Traditional Chinese Medicine and souvenirs, to habitat loss and global warming, Sygnathid populations in the wild are at risk.

Dried seahorses, pipefish and sea mothes headed for the TCM market.

Dried seahorses, pipefish and sea mothes headed for the TCM market.

20 millions seahorses a year are thought to be harvested for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Pipefish are becoming increasingly more popular in TCM as seahorse numbers dwindle.  Habitat loss and destruction is also a huge problem for seahorses, as many of their homes are in costal waters or seagrass beds near shore, easily destroyed by development and pollution run-off. And global warming is changing many of the habitats these unique fish depend on. Poaching is a threat to the rare Sea Dragons, with individual Leafy Seadragons fetching up to $4000(USD) each. Poaching may become an increasing threat as seahorses populations dwindle from unprotected waters.

What you can do about it

Everyone can get involved in helping protect these wonderful animals. Don’t buy dried seahorses as souvenirs or decorative products that contain seahorses. Encourage legislators to pass laws that protect coastal waters from development and pollution run-off. Donate to conservation groups such as the Nature Conservancy and Project Seahorse. Only buy seafoods that are caught through safe methods that don’t result in incidental by-catch of seahorses – See the Monterey Bay seafood watch list for shrimp, a primary problem with seahorse and pipefish by-catch. If you keep seahorses as pet, only purchase captive bred seahorses, and avoid tank-raised, where the young are harvested from the wild.

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