By Azul Casiquez, age 9 and IndyKids Staff
There are 46 different species of seahorses. These strange looking creatures range in size from 0.6 inches up to 14 inches long. Although they live in the sea, seahorses are poor swimmers. They live in shallow ocean areas, particularly in eelgrass beds, but they move into deeper waters to escape the colder seasons. Seahorses eat tiny shrimp called Mysis Shrimp and they feed 30-50 times a day.
Project Seahorse, a marine conservation organization based in Canada who work to maintain healthy and well-managed marine ecosystems, consider seahorses as a flagship species. The organization believes that there are 14 species of endangered seahorses.
Seahorses face many threats, such as habitat loss, climate change, unmanaged fishing activities and a high demand from some medical industries. Project Seahorse estimates that 70 million seahorses get caught globally by unregulated fishing practices every year. According to Mongabay News, seahorses are traded in large volumes, despite bans on exports of the animals from source countries. Most of these illegally traded seahorses are sold in dried forms to be used in traditional Chinese medicines.
Despite bans on trading small marine life like seahorses, the trade has continued to flourish. Thailand, one of the biggest exporters of seahorses, banned the practice in 2016. However, according to Sarah Foster, a research associate with Project Seahorse, this did not prevent the trade from continuing. “Dried seahorses are very easy to move across borders—they are small and, being dried, keep well over long time periods,” said Foster in an interview. The seahorses can be easily transported with shipments of dried seafood, she explains.