06 de octubre de 2023

iSeahorse turns 10 !

seahorse photo by imogenisunderwater on iSeahorse

This week we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of iSeahorse, our invaluable community science tool dedicated to seahorse science and conservation. Community scientists, especially divers, have been instrumental in its success.

Project Seahorse initiated this groundbreaking solution to address significant data gaps in seahorse populations. Seahorses, iconic ocean species, present unique research challenges due to their distinctive biology and elusive behaviors, which are further complicated by the small community of seahorse scientists.

Dr. Sarah Foster, Program leader for Project Seahorse and one of the iSeahorse creators, expresses her gratitude, saying, " A decade ago, we embarked on a journey to partner with community scientists to help us fill gaps in our knowledge about seahorses. Today, I'm filled with gratitude for all the passionate people who've joined us along the way. It's humbling to see how much iSeahorse has grown over the years, and exciting that contributors have made a real difference in seahorse conservation. We can, and will, save these fantastical fishes together."

iSeahorse operates on the iNaturalist online platform, fostering a diverse community of divers, scientists, conservationists, experts, and enthusiasts. Since its launch in 2013, iSeahorse has received nearly 11,000 observations worldwide, allowing us to address gaps in seahorse distribution, behavior, and conservation status. We have updated geographic ranges for seven species, described new habitats for 24, and documented sightings beyond known depths for 14 species. Notably, iSeahorse data played a pivotal role in the establishment of a new marine protected area (MPA) in Anda, Bohol, Philippines, and the expansion of another MPA in the Philippines.

The success of iSeahorse underscores the dedication of more than 1,900 contributors, with 96% of sightings originating from diving activities. We have initiated 20 long-term seahorse population monitoring projects worldwide, supported by 15 experts from 13 countries, ensuring scientific accuracy. Additionally, 22 iSeahorse ambassadors from 14 countries actively promote the program.

Support from Guylian Belgian Chocolates, iNaturalist, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Sea of Change Foundation, Synchronicity Earth, Taiwan Forestry Bureau, and Whitley Fund for Nature have made iSeahorse's successes possible.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of iSeahorse, our commitment remains strong to nurture a global community of passionate individuals, scientists, and divers united by their dedication to protecting these unique and vulnerable marine creatures. Seahorses, recognized for their conservation importance and iconic value, have played a pivotal role in generating marine protected areas, influencing fisheries management, and regulating wildlife trade. We eagerly look forward to further engaging with community scientists and expanding the network of seahorse experts and enthusiasts.

Publicado el 06 de octubre de 2023 a las 12:02 AM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

20 de abril de 2023

iSeahorse celebrates 10,000 observations: a milestone for community science and seahorse conservation

short-snouted seahorse

We are so happy to report that iSeahorse, our global platform for seahorse science and conservation, has reached, and surpassed, a significant milestone with 10,000 observations submitted by community scientists.

The 10,000th observation was made by Dennis Rabeling, a long-time and enthusiastic contributor to iSeahorse, of the short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus). The milestone highlights the hard work and dedication of people worldwide who have reported sightings of seahorses in the wild and reflects the potential of community science to advance conservation.

“We’re thrilled to have reached this notable tally and grateful for the dedication and hard work of our community scientists,” said Dr. Sarah Foster, program leader of UBC’s Project Seahorse, which launched the platform in 2013. “A total of 10,0000 contributions – and growing – indicates how much people care about seahorses and want to engage with them. As a Canadian, I’m delighted that iSeahorse has garnered rare sightings of the lined seahorse in Nova Scotia.”

iSeahorse, which is powered by the online platform iNaturalist, has built a strong community and alliance of scientists, conservationists, experts and enthusiasts. Seahorses are a critical part of marine ecosystems but are threatened by poorly managed fishing and habitat loss. Observations collected through iSeahorse are being used by Project Seahorse and its partners to improve knowledge of seahorses, their habitats, and their conservation status.

“We congratulate Dennis Rabeling and thank all our contributors for their tremendous contributions to iSeahorse,” said Dr. Amanda Vincent, director of Project Seahorse and Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon specialist group.

“We love engaging with community scientists and expanding the network of seahorse experts and enthusiasts. Collectively, we can and do power research and conservation to protect these quirky fishes and their ocean homes.”

To date iSeahorse has collected observations from more than 1,800 individual contributors, with 96 per cent of sightings from diving. Observations come from 97 countries, with one-third covering sightings in Australia. Validated sightings from the platform have extended the geographic ranges of eleven seahorse species, with implications for management and policy action. Additionally, the iSeahorse data have already led to the creation of one new marine protected area (MPA) in the village of Anda, Bohol, Philippines and the expansion of another MPA in the Philippines.

The platform has enabled scientists from Project Seahorse and around the world to better understand species ranges, depth distribution, habitat use, and breeding season. Project Seahorse has used these data to mobilize governments, policymakers, and ocean advocates to care about seahorses and act on their behalf.

The iSeahorse community has grown significantly over the years. In addition to logging sightings, iSeahorse has helped generate 20 long-term seahorse population monitoring projects on six continents. A total of 15 seahorse experts and enthusiasts from 13 countries also participate as iSeahorse national seahorse experts, helping ensure scientific accuracy, along with 22 iSeahorse ambassadors from 14 countries who spread news about the program and its merits.

The project was supported by Guylian Belgian Chocolates, iNaturalist, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Sea of Change Foundation, Synchronicity Earth, Taiwan Forestry Bureau, and Whitley Fund for Nature.

Publicado el 20 de abril de 2023 a las 07:25 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de enero de 2022

Lined seahorses in Nova Scotia, Canada?

Two Lined seahorses found in Nova Scotia.

These two handsome Lined (Northern) seahorses (Hippocampus erectus) were recorded by iSeahorse/iNaturalist users elli_ofthenorth (left) and nsbga (right) far from their usual home. The left one was found swimming in eastern Nova Scotia, Canada in the western Atlantic Ocean while the right one was found dead on a pile of seaweed in eastern Nova Scotia in the Bay of Fundy.

So what, you may ask?

Lined seahorses are typically spotted among mangroves, seagrass, corals, sponges, and floating mosses all around the Caribbean and Central America, not in Canada! BUT, these two rare sightings in Nova Scotia, reported in late 2021, are becoming more common. Seahorses have been spotted much further north in 2020, 2017, 2015 and 2013.

So, clearly these seahorses were far away from home. But how did they get there? Although they are reported to occur in Nova Scotia, their presence in Canada is still uncertain. Do they usually live here but we rarely see them? Or are they finding a new home along our coast? Perhaps like many other marine species they are moving north and finding new habitats as our climate and ocean warms. So many questions!

This discovery is important because Lined seahorses are listed as being globally Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their shallow seas habitats are being destroyed by coastal development, pollution, sedimentation and destructive fishing practices (such as bottom trawling).

How can you help? While I'm not telling you to stop eating fish there are many things you can do to help seahorses and the seas. You can start by treating marine fishes as wildlife and avoid eating fish and other marine life that came from bottom trawls. And, of course, spread the word! Find out more about seahorses and what you can do for them here projectseahorse.org/take-action/take-individual-steps.

Written by Nathan Mao, Project Seahorse undergraduate volunteer

Publicado el 14 de enero de 2022 a las 10:31 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de diciembre de 2021

Beautiful Big belly

A beautiful yellow big belly seahorse sitting among some seaweed.

This elegant Bigbelly seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) has the distinctive large brood pouch which gives this species its “big belly”. This lovely photo was captured by iNaturalist user imogen3184 off the coast of Melbourne, Australia and is our featured iSeahorse observation.

Big bellies range from black to yellow and often have dark markings. They are the largest seahorse species, growing up to 35 centimeters long. They are commonly found on rocky reefs and seagrass beds in the shallow waters of Southeast Australia. They are ambush predators, feeding on small crustaceans such as zooplankton and tiny shellfish at night.

The biggest threat to seahorses comes from bottom trawling. This indiscriminate fishing gear involves dragging a large and heavily weighted net along the ocean floor, catching all marine life in its path while destroying habitats.

Learn more about this harmful fishing practice and take action to #EndBottomTrawling and save seahorses.

Publicado el 15 de diciembre de 2021 a las 05:00 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

10 de marzo de 2021

Hedgehog seahorses susceptible to bottom trawling

By Tolu Amuwo
An amazingly colourful Hedgehog seahorse ( Hippocampus spinosissimus ).  You can tell that it is a  H. spinossisimus  by the spines along it's abdomen and the spiny coronet.  Photo by  iNaturalist  user francescoric.

An amazingly colourful Hedgehog seahorse (Hippocampus spinosissimus). You can tell that it is a H. spinossisimus by the spines along it's abdomen and the spiny coronet. Photo by iNaturalist user francescoric.

This lovely sea creature is a Hedgehog seahorse (Hippocampus spinosissimus) - it was photographed off the coast of the northern Philippines by iNaturalist user Francesco Ricciardi. The Hedgehog seahorse is frequently found on corals and sea sponges, as well as the sandy bottoms of the ocean where they  feed on small crustaceans and other planktonic invertebrates. Unfortunately, their choice of habitat makes them more susceptible to bottom trawling, a harmful fishing practice that sweeps up the seafloor and leads to the destruction and loss of so much marine life. 

The Hedgehog seahorse is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Overfishing is a major threat to this seahorse species, and in particular bottom trawling. It is also one of the most commonly reported seahorses in wildlife trade and used in traditional medicine. More than 70 million seahorses are caught in unmanaged fisheries each year. In fact, “most seahorses in international trade were caught in bottom trawls and other non-selective fisheries. So, most seahorses that are used IN traditional medicine were not caught FOR traditional medicine” says Dr Amanda Vincent, Director, Project Seahorse.

To overcome the pressures placed on their habitats and populations, we must demand an end to:

• bottom trawling – the waste of life is atrocious

• harmful subsidies – we are paying to keep unprofitable fisheries afloat

• illegal, unreported and unmanaged fisheries

• illegal wildlife trade

Learn more:

Publicado el 10 de marzo de 2021 a las 10:09 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de septiembre de 2020

Protecting Giraffes - Giraffe seahorses that is - in Mozambique

By Ebba Hooft-Toomey

This proud Giraffe seahorse (Hippocampus camelopardalis) was observed in Mozambique by Dr. Louw Claassens (IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group Member), who then uploaded it here. While not much is known about Giraffe seahorses - they are classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List - we do know they are found in the coastal waters of southern and eastern Africa.  As seen in this photo, Giraffe seahorses live in estuarine seagrass beds, as well as algal beds and shallow reefs.

The grassroots organization ParCo recently investigated the fishing of seahorses in Mozambique. They found that the majority of seahorses are extracted for the Chinese Traditional Medicine trade, a common use of seahorses from around the world. However, fishing in Mozambique has a unique twist; many fishers use mosquito nets, which have a very fine mesh, to catch aquatic life.

Due to concerns about the seahorse trade, ParCo reached out to Project Seahorse for guidance a few years ago. Now ParCo has developed an inspiring seahorse protection program that focuses on four main agents of conservation in the region: research, education, enforcement, and tourism. First, with the help of Dr. Claassens, they set up a seahorse monitoring program in 2019 which continues to research and survey seahorse population in the area. Second, local fishers who are concerned about conservation help enforce rules by monitoring their peers. Finally, partnership with the Bahia Mar Hotel helps promote seahorse tourism as an alternate source of income for fishermen. The well-rounded approach of ParCo, founded on the idea of helping local communities “realize their vision for change” is a promising example of marine conservation in action.

For more information:

Hippocampus camelopardalis IUCN Red List listing: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/10064/100939136

Dr. Louw Claassens (IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group Member)

ParCo seahorse protection program

Publicado el 24 de septiembre de 2020 a las 03:13 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

03 de septiembre de 2020

Flirtatious Shorthead seahorses

By Ebba Hooft-Toomey

Our latest featured iSeahorse observation is this beautiful Shorthead seahorse (Hippocampus breviceps) by iNaturalist user ken_flan. It is also known as the Knobby seahorse and lives in southwestern and southeastern coastal Australia. It’s clear where this seahorse gets its common names as it is characterized by a short snout and fleshy tendrils on its head and back.

While not much is known about H. breviceps, our director, Dr. Amanda Vincent, researched this mysterious species in 2004 and she discovered a few fascinating facts. For example, H. breviceps moves within quite a small area, from 1 to 12 square meters. Interestingly, movement patterns varied between sexes – with the females moving through twice as much space as males. Both genders tended stay within seaweed beds. Amanda also found that the seahorses engage in displays with opposite sex partners. Surprisingly, these seahorses “flirted” with more than one partner, breaking the assumption that seahorses are monogamous! Even though Amanda’s work made some interesting discoveries it also emphasized the fact that there is a lot more to learn about seahorses.  

Learn more about Hippocampus breviceps

IUCN Red List: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/10063/54904334

iSeahorse: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/38085462

Publicado el 03 de septiembre de 2020 a las 11:49 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

27 de julio de 2020

White's seahorse: one of two Endangered seahorse species

By Ebba Hooft-Toomey

We took a little break from posting featured iSeahorse observations, but we are back at it again! To kick things off we are featuring this gorgeous White’s seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) photographed by user Peter “fiftygrit” in New South Wales, Australia.  White’s seahorse was recently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, one of two seahorse species listed as Endangered. The biggest threat to its populations is habitat loss. It is thought to be endemic to the Southwest Pacific and it lives in shallow, inshore habitats, both natural and anthropogenic.

Another interesting fact is that Prof. Amanda Vincent, our director and co-founder, began her career by observing White’s seahorses underwater in Australia in 1986. In fact, she was the first scientist to study seahorses underwater. Fast forward a few decades and Amanda’s career is one of the most acclaimed in marine conservation. In May 2020 she became the first marine conservationist to win the world’s top animal conservation award - the prestigious Indianapolis prize.

The prize acknowledges Amanda’s hard work and major conservation achievements. Amanda dedicated her career to understanding and advocating for seahorses, which serve as flagship species for a wide range of marine conservation issues. She and her Project Seahorse team are now focused on bringing an end to harmful fishing practices such as bottom trawling, where industrial nets are dragged across the ocean floor, catching everything in their paths and destroying vital habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds in the process. Bottom trawling is the single biggest threat to seahorses.

The story of Amanda and seahorses, a story that began with the shy H. whitei of Australia, is an exciting and uplifting example of how cutting-edge research can be turned into effective conservation actions.

For more information on Hippocamus whitei see:

IUCN Red List https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/10088/46721312

iSeahorse: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/44119410

Publicado el 27 de julio de 2020 a las 06:51 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de mayo de 2020

Amanda Vincent wins world’s top award for animal conservation.

Dr Amanda Vincent, Project Seahorse director and co-founder, becomes the first marine conservationist to win the prestigious Indianapolis Prize.

“This prestigious global award allows me to advocate for vastly more attention to the ocean – which accounts for 99 percent of the living space on Earth – and all the species on which the marine ecosystem depends. — Amanda Vincent

Watch an inspiring video and find out more here

Publicado el 13 de mayo de 2020 a las 06:18 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de mayo de 2020

Small and mighty (Why the weedy pygmy is going strong)

Pygmy weedy seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi) by

By Rebecca Waines

Our latest iSeahorse featured observation comes from Daniel Schofield (djscho on iNaturalist) who captured this wonderful weedy pygmy (Hippocampus pontohi) amidst the pink corals of Indonesia.

The weedy pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi) was named after the Indonesian dive guide, Hence Pontoh, who discovered it. As with most pygmy seahorses, it grows to be ~ 1.5 centimeters long, and is typically found between 11-20 m depth. The weedy pygmy’s favorite place to hang is in Halimeda seaweed meadows.  

These Halimeda meadows will, however, become less and less prevalent as the ocean acidifies, meaning that these beautiful creatures will have to branch out and inhabit other areas… Instead of its typical green environment, this featured pygmy is at home in the fuchsia hues of coral and encrusting algae. 

Weedy pygmies are very small - usually no longer than two cm - and can be tricky to spot, but being small has its advantages. Thanks to its size, these seahorses are less exploited than their larger cousins for commercial trade.  

Although their future is uncertain, the size and adaptability of H. pontohi means they have a hopeful chance at continuing to thrive in nature!  Currently, they are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Daniel Schofield photographs the magnificent marine life of the Indo-Pacific. Thanks to him we can see this species, small and bright, and hanging on (both literally and metaphorically) with its firmly coiled tail…

 Learn more about the weedy pygmy:

Publicado el 12 de mayo de 2020 a las 08:41 PM por projectseahorse projectseahorse | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario