Project Seahorse is increasingly mindful of the need to address loss and degradation of marine habitats where seahorses are found.
Habitat protection is of particular importance for some of the most threatened seahorse species, which live in estuaries and lagoons. While some of the species living in such transitional waters are still primarily threatened by fishing, others are primarily at risk because of habitat damage. Even species found in open coastal areas have to contend with declines in habitat extent and quality.
The first priority should be to take pressures off seahorse habitats and encourage natural recovery.
In this, protected areas offer one of the best ways to support habitats. Sometimes habitats will start recovering on their own once destructive activities cease. In other instances, the designation of protected areas may have to be accompanied by active measures to promote habitat recovery, although the results may be highly variable.
Active restoration of seahorse habitats is still in its infancy and not very effective. Efforts to revive mangroves are gradually improving as projects move away from haphazard planting of monocultures. In contrast, the many small initiatives to restore / replant seagrasses and coral reefs and are largely very small scale, expensive and labour intensive; for the most part, accounts of their success sound more impressive than their real effectiveness. Recovery of kelp is also very expensive and difficult, with highly variable responses that are site dependent.
Holistic watershed and coastal management
There is a great need for holistic watershed and coastal management to ensure that nutrients and chemical pollutants don’t run into estuaries or lagoons in particular, or coastal areas in general. Regulatory measures need to limit the excessive nutrients, such as those from agriculture and urban land use, that lead to eutrophication (with poor water quality, diminished visibility, and dead zones). They also need to restrict and reduce ecosystem loading of chemical pollutants that affect the biology of seahorses.