The Seahorse
by Roberta B. Turner

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, 12 of the 42 seahorse species that have been assessed so far are listed as Vulnerable, with two listed as Endangered, one as Near Threatened and 10
as Least Concern. The remaining 17 seahorse species are listed as Data Deficient. Four species are found in Pacific waters from North America to South America. In the Atlantic, Hippocampus erectus ranges from Nova Scotia to Uruguay. H. zosterae, known as the dwarf seahorse, is found in the Bahamas.

Seahorses are hunted by humans to be used for medicine, as sou-venirs, and in the pet trade. They are used for all types of medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine Trade, The Curio Trade also takes enormous amounts of seahorses from the wild. They are often sold as souvenirs. The pet trade also takes an excessive number
of seahorses. Many of those taken in the pet trade will not survive more than six weeks.

Other major threats to seahorses include bycatch, habitat loss and climate change. Coral reefs and seagrass beds are deteriorating, reducing viable habitats for seahorses.

Numerous conservation groups, such as Project Seahorse and The Seahorse Trust, are working to protect seahorse species. Further research is needed to assess and protect these species.

Congratulations to the Bahamas for recognizing the importance of preserving this important species.

The Bahamas’ Newest National Park Is the Seahorse Capital of the World.

It’s a mile-long pond in Hatchet Bay on the island of Eleuthera. But this body of water is filled with wonders. Sweetings Pond, a land-locked saltwater pond, is home to what is said to be the densest population of seahorses anywhere in the world.

Sweetings Pond is a landlocked lagoon connected invisibly to the ocean. This unusual environment hosts distinctive populations of fabulous ocean creatures including the vulnerable seahorse.

The unique population has helped earn this global sea-horse capital a new title: the newest national park in The Bahamas is called, fittingly, Seahorse National Park.

The park encompasses 548 acres – protecting both the pond itself and the area beyond – including the Hatchet Bay Caves system, what The Bahamas National Trust calls “one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.”

The park designation “has been a long time coming,” said Bahamas Minister of Agriculture,Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs Clay Sweeting. “It represents a milestone in our journey towards sustainable development. It symbolizes our collective responsibility to safe-guard our natural heritage and create a harmonious relationship between economic progress and environmental preservation.”

The idea is to “transform Sweetings Pond into a world-class national park,” said Lakeshia Anderson Rolle, Executive Director of The Bahamas National Trust.

“The declaration of Seahorse National Park is more than just a design-ation; it is our shared promise to our community, to future generations, and to the world that we are committed to conserving our unique and diverse ecosystems for the benefit of all Bahamians,” she said.

The park is yet another reminder of Eleuthera’s vast, pristine natural environment, from pink sand beaches to imposing cliffs, to the world-famous Ocean Hole in Rock Sound.

The threatened seahorse, Hippocampus erectus, is found here in numbers never discovered elsewhere. Sweetings Pond provides a vital buffer against declines in other parts of its range.

Protecting Sweetings Pond is one important step towards saving seahorses and their marine communities.

Seahorse Facts

There are 44 different species.
They have a snout like a horse, tail like a monkey and males have pouches like kangaroos.
They may not look like it, but they’re technically fish.
Males take the lead when it comes to the labor of childbirth.
Males take the lead when it comes to the labor of childbirth.
Seahorses are infamously awful swimmers.
Romance is real in the seahorse world.
Seahorse couples ‘greet’ each other every day and hold tails.
The seahorses will use their powerful tails as a weapon when fighting over food or territory, or as a way to anchor themselves during a storm.
Mated pairs will even be seen swimming with tails linked, perhaps their version of holding hands.
They are monogamous fish. Once mated they will check in with their partner every day to see how they are doing.
The male will contract his abdomen repeatedly, spitting out tiny, fully formed seahorses.
Males become pregnant and give birth to babies.
When they mate, the female deposits eggs into a pouch on the male’s belly and he carries these until they hatch.
Giving birth is long for seahorses with contractions lasting up to 12 hours for some species.
Baby seahorses are called fry. When a fry is born, it is left immediately to fend for itself.
They have the ability to camouflage themselves in their environment by changing colors rapidly to match their surroundings.
They can look backwards and forwards at the same time. This is possible because their eyes work independently of each other, which is useful when looking out for predators while consuming one of their many meals.
They eat almost constantly. Since they have neither teeth nor stomachs, food passes through their small bodies very quickly, so they have to eat at least 30 meals per day.
Small shrimp and other crustaceans make up the primary diet of the seahorse, ingesting them into mouths that operate like trapdoors.
A small crown, called a coral net, is different on each seahorse. The spiky crowns on their heads are the equivalent of human fingerprints.
Seahorses have a brain, like most other fish.
A seahorse usually attaches itself to seagrass, branches, or shells on the ocean floor to sleep in an upright position. They hold on to avoid being taken with the current.
A seahorse can live between an estimated four to six years in the wild. The larger ones tend to live longer than the small ones.
All these unusual traits help us to expand our understanding of reproductive ecology.