Thursday, October 13, 2011

Project Seahorse

Lined Seahorse photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium Zebra Snout Seahorse photo courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Chinese cannot get enough of these magical creatures for their herbal medicine trade, aquarium hobbyists try and often fail to keep them alive and well in tanks, and now Kim Kardashian says she wants one for Christmas. How sad that these magical fish, in such grave peril, have become just another trinket to collect and possess by a rich and famous young woman who could actually do so much to help save them.

Decades ago, like many children, I was enchanted and transfixed by the sight of seahorses in Florida where my family spent many winters. Back then we did not know that seahorses, like so many other animals, could disappear forever. It's up to all of us to do what we can to preserve what still remains, so that's why I hope you will watch a TV special called "Seahorses: Wanted Dead Or Alive," airing on NAT GEO TV this month.

"With a horse's head, a monkey's tail and sex-swap parenting, seahorses are one of the ocean's strangest and most charismatic inhabitants. In this one hour special, wildlife filmmaker Natali Tesche-Ricciardi sets out to investigate something that most people don't realize - seahorse populations are in crisis. Natali finds that seahorses live in shallow, coastal seas and so are among the first to suffer from coastal development and pollution. They are often caught as fishing bycatch and are sold as tourist souvenirs. They are wanted alive for the aquarium trade and dead for a much larger industry - traditional Chinese medicine.

Millions of seahorses are traded each year and can reach a value higher than silver. Fortunately all is not lost. With the help of an international organization, Project Seahorse, traders and fishermen are changing their ways to help wild seahorse populations. It's a global adventure that takes Natali from marine reserves in Spain, to the traditional medicine shops of Hong Kong, to experience both seahorse heaven and seahorse hell.

You may be interested to know that seahorses all belong to the the genus, Hippocampus , which is derived from the Greek words ‘hippos' (meaning horse) and ‘campus' (meaning sea monster).

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