Celebrating the Kings (and Queens)* of the Ria Formosa, Portugal

Guest blog by Katia, an amazing 8 year old seahorse enthusiast

Map of Europe with the location of Ria Formosa indicated with a red marker located at the southern Portugal
Red marker indicates the location of Ria Formosa, Portugal

Everything started when I began surfing at Clube de Surfe Faro (in the Algarve, Portugal). During summer activities at the club, we went snorkelling in the Ria Formosa and our instructor told us about the seahorses that lived there and how the seahorses were in danger. I then had an idea to save the seahorses so that we could always live with these magnificent creatures, but how could I put this idea into practice? When I started at my new school in September, I found out that we were going to celebrate the Day of the Animal. The school chose the seahorse. My school is also part of a wider school project called the ‘Blue Project’ which helps us to learn more about the ocean and sea creatures.

My idea then became clear, I would start a seahorse club at my school and develop activities that would help people save the seahorses. As part of this club, O Clube dos Cavalos Marinhos de BM1 Marim, we researched how seahorses live, their unique characteristics, and feeding habits. We are also making some signage to place at the beach near the school to try and stop people from polluting the beach with plastic and other waste materials that can harm sea creatures such as the seahorse. I also worked with one of my friends to make up an experiment to show how seahorses eat. We placed some water in a bowl and cut some tiny pieces of garlic and placed these in the water. We then got a tube, squeezed the tube creating suction which drew in the garlic and the water, which is similar to how a seahorse collects and eats its food. We showed our class mates the experiment and they were happy to learn something new about these amazing creatures.

Here in Portugal, we celebrate Carnival, and as part of that my class decided we would dress up as seahorses. To start with, we collected recycled cardboard and then we went to the local beaches along the Ria Formosa to collect rubbish, mainly plastic waste that we found, to decorate our individual seahorses. We wanted to visually show the damage that pollution can cause to sea creatures, such as the seahorse.

I want to save the seahorses because there are lots of curious facts about them which many children do not know. Seahorses die because of the pollution that goes into our water systems and if we do not stop, the seahorses will become extinct forever here in the Ria Formosa. But that is not the only danger that they face here. The story of the destruction of the seahorses’ habitats by bad fishing practices and the collection of seahorses which are then sold to other people, sometimes in other countries has to be told.

Now I am trying to make a seahorse game, a game that will help other children to learn about the seahorses and the dangers that they face. This way, I hope that children can learn about seahorses and have fun at the same time.

* Kings and queens because these seahorses have little crowns on their heads 🙂

Project Seahorse has a long history (20+ years) of involvement in seahorse research and conservation in the Ria Formosa region in southern Portugal. Our Dr Miguel Correia (Project Seahorse Research Associate) is the iSeahorse National Seahorse Expert for Portugal.