In the last few weeks, we saw many seahorses underwater. Seahorses with their horse-like head, monkey-like tail and kangaroo-like pouch are fascinating creatures. They are really hard to spot because they are masters in camouflage. However, we have some amazing instructors who are expert in finding seahorses!
The Seahorse is usually found in shallow, coastal tropical and temperate waters throughout the world including waters of Costa Rica e.g. the pacific seahorse. With a size of about 12 cm the Pacific Seahorse is one of the largest of all species you will find in the world. Due the change in water temperatures during the summer in El Coco Seahorses come to shallow depths which makes them more popular in our dive-sites.
Did you know:
- Seahorses hold the Guinness world record for slowest fish in the ocean with a speed of only 150 centimetres per hour. They propel themselves by using a small fin on their back that flutters up to 35 times per second.
- Seahorses have a single mate for the whole life. Each morning, they come together, dance, change their colour, twist around with linked tails and then separate for the rest of the day.
- They are the only animal species on earth which the male gets pregnant instead of the female. Pregnancy lasts about two weeks to one month, the length decreasing with increasing temperature.
- Baby seahorses are known as ‘fry’ and when they are born they are totally on their own. They spend the first two to three weeks of their lives drifting along in the plankton layer of the ocean.
- Less than one in a thousand will survive long enough to become an adult due to predators.
- Another unusual trait is that they swim upright rather than horizontally.
- Lack of their good swimming abilities can cause them t die from exhaustion in high currents.
- A seahorse doesn’t have teeth and a stomach. They have to eat constantly due to the fast process of digestion. They spend almost all their lives on eating and resting.
- Penguins are one of the most common predators of the seahorse. Others include tuna, stingrays, manta rays and crabs.
- Seahorse are important predators on bottom-dwelling organisms; removing them may disrupt ecosystems.
However, seahorses are exploited for use as traditional medicines, aquarium fishes, souvenirs and tonic foods. At least 20 million sea horses are taken from the ocean each year. Traditional Chinese medicine is the largest direct market for seahorses. According to the IUCN Red List, nine seahorses species are vulnerable, one is endangered and 28 other seahorse species are listed as Data Deficient. Almost all seahorses in aquariums are wild-caught, while dead seahorses are used for souvenirs e.g. jewellery and key chains.
What can we do to save those amazing animals? It is important that people are more aware of the treats of the ocean. Due to more awareness we can stop the overfishing and by catch. Furthermore, There are many different non-profit organisations who are doing research about the seahorse such as Save our Seahorses (SOS), The Seahorse Trust and Seahorse Organisation. They help through research, community work and changing marine management policy.
The simplest thing people can do to save seahorses (and other sea animals) is to stop eating shrimp. Every year, shrimp fishing and farming destroy large swaths of coastal marine habitat, depriving seahorses and other marine animals of the sea grasses and mangroves on which they depend.