Sea of Change Foundation supports citizen science with Project Seahorse and Aggressor Adventures®

By Sea of Change Foundation

In an on-going effort to support marine conservation across scuba diving and coastal communities, the Sea of Change Foundation has funded internationally recognized, award-winning Project Seahorse to help refine and expand its citizen science reach, globally.

Amanda Vincent PhD, the project’s Principal Investigator explains, “Project Seahorse grew out of a collaboration with colleagues who shared an interest in seahorse biology and conservation, and is now led by Dr. Sarah Foster, Dr. Heather Koldewey, and me.  As scientists, we are intent on generating knowledge and applying that knowledge to influence management and policy in support of conservation gains.  As a result, our organization has won many accolades for our excellence in conservation, working from fish to community to government and from local to global.”

Why is this important? Seahorse populations around the world are threatened by indiscriminate fishing practices, collection for use in traditional Chinese medicine, and habitat loss especially in estuaries. Currently, according to the pre-eminent IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 14 of the 46 known seahorse species are threatened with extinction, while the status of another 17 species is unknown, requiring more data to determine their population status. Therefore, the more information that can be gathered and evaluated, the more focused conservation actions and policies can be.

The Sea of Change Foundation is now helping support Project Seahorse to maximize the value of their community science database, iSeahorse. This program has accumulated over 7,000 seahorse sightings from around the world, and of those, approximately 15 percent are verified sightings from outside the species’ previously known geographic ranges, allowing for potential improvement in planning and conservation strategies. Support from the Foundation will help Project Seahorse promote community science, analyze its data, and share their findings with natural resource managers and policymakers to improve conservation of seahorse populations around the world.

To help increase the reach of Project Seahorse’s citizen science initiatives, Aggressor Adventures®, a leader in the adventure travel industry, has started providing iSeahorse citizen science training for some of their dive liveaboard staff who, in turn, will offer seahorse species ID training to interested guests. With Project Seahorse’s growing community science database, combined with the potential reach of divers across Aggressor’s global fleet of 19 dive yachts, the opportunity to increase collections of important seahorse data is promising and exciting.

“As divers, seeing amazing fish like seahorses is why we dive, so it is our duty to do all that we can to help protect them,” said Samantha Whitcraft, the Foundation’s Executive Director and Platinum-Pro 5000 diver. And, she continued, “participating in citizen science is a great way to do that.” Wayne Brown, CEO of Aggressor Adventures® and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation added that “Aggressor Liveaboards are thrilled to participate in this community and citizen science initiative with both our staff and guests to help divers appreciate the wonder of seahorses, now and into the future.”

Sea of Change Foundation: The Sea of Change Foundation initiates and funds conservation, research, and education that directly impact the natural world we all love to enjoy and explore. Our mission is to create positive change.

Aggressor Adventures®: Since 1984, Aggressor Adventures® has offered travelers liveaboard scuba and snorkeling charters, luxury river cruises, and exotic wildlife safaris. Worldwide locations the company explores include Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, Cocos Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Galapagos, Hawaii, Indonesia, Maldives, Mexico, Oman, Philippines, Palau, Red Sea, Roatan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, and Turks and Caicos.

Project Seahorse: Our mission has three elements: 1) an interdisciplinary and international organization committed to conservation and sustainable use of the world’s coastal marine ecosystem; 2) engagement in connected research and management at scales ranging from community initiatives to international accord; and 3) collaborating with partners and communities, we use seahorses to focus our efforts in finding marine conservation solutions.