Pontoh’s Seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi). Image © Patrick Decaluwe, Guylian
What are some of the stories that seahorses can help you tell?
Seahorses capture most of the threats in the marine environment, as well as many of the solutions. They are subject to heavy fishing pressure from small-scale subsistence fishers, but also to enormous, astonishingly bad fishing pressure – from bottom trawling, seine nets and gill nets and other non-selective forms of fishing. They’re disturbed by degradation of their coastal habitats: seagrasses, mangroves, coral reefs, estuaries, macro-algae/seaweed. And they are also very vulnerable to climate change as these habitats are damaged.
At Project Seahorse, we look at the world as a bit of an onion – think of the concentric rings in a cross section of an onion. We put seahorses at the centre of our world and then of course, to protect seahorses, you have to look after their habitats, their ecosystems, their communities. For those to flourish, you’ve got to work on managing human pressures: fishing, dredging, dumping, mining, coastal development. We work with subsistence fishers, for example, developing regulations, putting in place alliances of small-scale fishers to help them find a voice.
But we also know that the fishers, the miners, the dredgers, the dumpers will only make good decisions if they and their families are well supported. You have to support the economic wellbeing of the community.