Project Seahorse work leads to huge international change, as Thailand announces it is suspending seahorse exports

Story originally posted on UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries

Project Seahorse*, a marine conservation research unit based at The University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, is applauding Thailand’s decision to end seahorse exports until it can trade in a sustainable manner, without damaging their wild populations. We spoke to Dr. Amanda Vincent, Director, Project Seahorse and Professor, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries about the decision.

Thailand has announced it is suspending seahorse exports. What does this mean?
Thailand is by far the world’s largest exporter of wild seahorses, representing 90% of the trade. What they announced at today’s CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting is that they have decided to suspend all of its international trade in these quirky fishes until it can sort out an effective, sustainable way to sell them abroad without damaging their wild populations.  This trade suspension means that the country will stop exporting seahorses, probably for several years, but will one day return to international trade in seahorses.

What role did Project Seahorse play in achieving this trade ban?
The Project Seahorse team, based at UBC and with its partner, the Zoological Society of London, played a major role in assisting Thailand to tackle this important conservation issue head on. We lead seahorse research, conservation, policy, and management around the world, and were the first to discover the nature and scale of the seahorse trade in Thailand, alerting the world as to its conservation implications, and generating global restrictions on seahorse trade. Our work on the international level has been pioneering; we are the globally recognized expert group on 350 species of fish (seahorses, pipefishes, sea dragons and their relatives), and we worked with CITES to develop the first ever global trade agreement regulations the export of marine fishes.

At the request of CITES, Project Seahorse worked with Thailand’s Department of Fisheries on tools and approaches for export management, as well as studying Thailand’s seahorse populations, fisheries and trades. Meeting CITES recommendations on the complex and very large trade in these animals was a big challenge, and we understand why Thailand has decided that a trade suspension would allow it more time to get export regulations right. Now we are eager to help Thailand obtain what it needs in terms of tools, resources, and support to manage seahorse exports sustainably.

How large is the international trade in seahorses?
It is large and complex, estimated at more than tens of millions of individuals per year, involving more than 80 countries, and more than 41 species. The majority of exports come from Southeast Asia or West Africa, with Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as the primary importers. Seahorses are used primarily in dried form for traditional medicine, live in ornamental aquarium displays, and as curios and souvenirs.

Thailand is by far the world’s most significant exporter of seahorses; the source of more than three-quarters of the seahorse in international trade each year. Official CITES data show that Thailand has exported about 5 million animals per year since 2004, all of them dried and all of them wild. Our analysis of Thailand’s fisheries suggests the real numbers are actually much higher.

Hippocampus kuda, Spotted seahorse. Photo by Lindsay Aylesworth/Project Seahorse

Hippocampus kuda, Spotted seahorse.
Photo by Lindsay Aylesworth/Project Seahorse

Which species will be impacted by this move?
Seven species of seahorses inhabit Thailand’s national waters. Five have been recorded in trade, and four (Hippocampus kelloggi,, Hippocampus kuda, Hippocampus spinosissimus,and Hippocampus trimaculatus) dominate global trade volumes. All will be affected.

What is the biggest risk to the seahorse population in Thailand?
Seahorses are caught directly, for the live trade, but that is only a small part of the fishery. Thai fishers capture the great majority of seahorses by accident, brought up in non-selective fishing gears such as trawls and gillnets. Bottom trawls, in particular, are very damaging and destructive. They scrape the ocean floor, taking everything in their path. About 85-95% of the weight in trawl nets is marine life they didn’t mean to catch. Actually, some trawl fisheries have given up even targeting any particular species and just grab what they can get.

We are heartened that Thailand has recognized that these non-selective gears are causing ecosystem damage, as well as impacting their fisheries. They are, thankfully, stopping the trade so that they can develop action plans that will better manage not just the future of the seahorse trade, but also the catches that Thai fisheries depend on as a source of income.

So you want to re-open the trade? Why is Project Seahorse promoting sustainable use instead of an outright ban?
Generally speaking, sustainable use offers more potential for long-term conservation. While bans certainly have their uses, they are not a panacea. One often has to deal with ensuing illegal catch and trade, and with angry fishers and traders. After all, fisheries are of great economic importance. It is better for both wildlife and people to seek a balance between safeguarding a species or space and using it as a resource. People who depend on a resource can become marvelous guardians. Moreover, having their buy-in is vital to stimulate compliance with regulations; enforcement of unpopular management decisions is very problematic, and commonly fails.

*Project Seahorse acts as the IUCN SSC Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group (SPS SG).


More stories on this...

IUCN: IUCN behind major advance for seahorse conservation
Washington Post: Thailand suspends seahorse trade amid conservation concerns

 

2000+ observations on iSeahorse !

Hippocampus bargibanti, Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse. Photo by iSeahorse user sorcrs.

Hippocampus bargibanti, Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse. Photo by iSeahorse user sorcrs.

Great news!!  This summer we reached our 2000th seahorse observation on iSeahorse  - our pioneering citizen science website and smartphone app that allows anyone to contribute to the science and conservation of seahorses.

Observation 2000 is one of Hippocampus bargibanti, Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse. It comes to us from one of the hotspots for iSeahorse contributions, the northeastern tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Posted by iSeahorse user sorcrs, it’s a great shot of the pygmy seahorse on its obligate host gorgonian coral.

As we surpass 2000 seahorse observations, we look back at what our citizen science program has accomplished so far. Since launching in late 2013, iSeahorse and the contributing users have generated a great deal of new knowledge about seahorses and engaged people worldwide with marine conservation. iSeahorse has now accumulated data for 36 of 41 seahorse species, while engaging some 428 unique observers, many of whom have contributed multiple observations.  User-contributed observations on iSeahorse have greatly expanded the known ranges of several seahorses, including an expansion of several hundred kilometres for Hippocampus sindonis, 1000 km for Hippocampus comes, and a huge expansion of more than 4000 km for Hippocampus pontohi. We are also learning much about the depth ranges and habitat preferences of all the species observed, which will contribute to conservation planning efforts in the near future.

Most importantly, we hope that iSeahorse has helped to instill a sense of wonder and compassion for the health of wild seahorses and their ocean homes that are so critical to our planetary well-being. None of what we’ve learned so far would have been possible without our contributors, so many thanks to everyone who posted one of our more than 2000 observations to date.

 

Project Seahorse at #IMCC4

Project Seahorse is well represented at the International Marine Conservation Congress taking place from July 30th to August 3rd in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.  
Below is a listing of where you can find us!

Sun July 31, 11:00 - 13:00, Salon E (C19 - Fisheries, aquaculture and the oceans)
12:15 Ting-Chun Kuo and Lindsay Aylesworth - Quantifying fishers' catch rates: exploring recall bias in reporting time slices  
Fisher interviews are commonly used as a means to understand the status of the fishery when other datasets are unavailable. However, how reliable are reported quantified data such as catch rates? Using interview data from commercial trawl and small-scale gillnet fishers in Thailand, we explored the potential for varying recall bias in fishers' reported catch rates of seahorses (as memorable species) across different slices of time (e.g., day, fishing trip, month). Our hypothesis was that if such recall bias exists, catch rate reported based on different time slices would vary at the levels of both the individual fisher and the fisher population. We found for both gear types that when fishers reported on a shorter time slice (haul, day), annual catch estimates were significantly higher than when they reported on a longer time slice (month, year). The high levels of variation in our catch rates resulted in great uncertainty of estimating the seahorse catch. However, the validations of reported catch rates with external datasets were inconclusive. As a result, we reported both the median and mean catch estimates to account for the highly skewed distribution of our data. Our research highlights the shorter time slices lead to higher annual catch estimates and have strong implications for fisheries management of data-poor species. 


Mon Aug 1, 3:45, Salon G (c24 - Fisheries, aquaculture and the oceans)
Danika Kleiber - The invisible walking fishers: gleaning, gender, food security, and marine spatial management
Gleaning is an ancient form of fishing practiced throughout the world-the act of catching or collecting marine species in intertidal habitats. Gleaning is often left out of fisheries and marine conservation research, in part because of narrow understanding of fishing as something that happens in boats, and in part because it is often done by women and other marginalized groups. To examine the importance of gleaning this research examines the gendered, economic and food security aspects of gleaning in the Central Philippines. In this area gleaners were predominantly women, and more likely to be fishers that retained all their catch for family consumption. Gleaners were also more likely to be from families that had lower food security, and from communities with larger intertidal areas suitable for gleaning. Gleaners also targeted invertebrates, and their catch contributed substantially to both their total estimated weekly income from fishing (13%), and to total weekly edible biomass that was retained for family consumption (27%). Gleaning also produced smaller but more reliable catch than other fishing methods. The reliability of gleaning, and the reports that gleaning was often done when other forms of fishing are unavailable contribute to its importance as a source of food security. This research highlights the importance of gleaning to food security, and livelihood strategies, and the need to include gleaners in community-based marine spatial management efforts.


Tues Aug 2, 8:30-10:30 (FG85) Canada's policies on marine species at risk, past and future Join Amanda Vincent, John Reynolds, Julia Baum, Brett Favaro, Isabelle Cote and Susanna Fuller to generate vital collective action for marine species at risk in Canada. 

We will explore Canada’s history with, and help define Canada’s future for, marine species at risk.  

The focus group will allow participants to explore the challenges for marine species at risk and develop ideas to help create the political and policy changes needed to provide better support for Canada’s marine life.  

We will then take these ideas forward to effect change in Canada’s use of policy instruments for marine species conservation. 


Tues Aug 2, 11:00-13:00 (SY 51)  Beyond engagement: turning citizen science findings into conservation and policy action (Vancouver Aquarium with Project Seahorse are the organisers).
12:00 Chai Apale - Citizen Science is helping save Philippines seahorses and their seas
 iSeahorse is designed to put the power of marine conservation in the hands of local citizens throughout the world, wherever seahorses are found. The program provides a platform for individuals and groups to contribute information on seahorse sightings, and supports them in using the data they (and others) collect to advocate for conservation gains on behalf of seahorses and their marine environments. In order to kick-start iSeahorse, we secured funding to employ a national iSeahorse champion in the Philippines for two years. Her work enabled iSeahorse contributors to make measurable and important conservation gains for seahorses and their marine habitats: (1) iSeahorse was the catalyst for the creation of a new marine sanctuary in Bohol where a local dive organization used iSeahorse data to petitioned for protection of valuable, yet threatened, seahorse habitat; (2) the Filipino government used data from iSeahorse to develop an action plan in support of sustainable seahorse fisheries and trades; and (3) there is now a larger and more engaged constituency supporting seahorse and marine conservation in the Philippines through iSeahorse collaboration with individuals, communities and institutions. That said, it has sometimes been difficult to engage fishers as contributors, because of legal issues, poor access to technology and the need to incentivize contributions. Nonetheless, thanks to iSeahorse, Filipino seahorses and seas are better protected.    


Wed 3 Aug, 8:30 -10:30 (SY20) Making bad better: Advancements in trawl fisheries research and mitigation.   
This symposium aims to highlight advancements in our understanding of the impacts of trawl fisheries and how they can be better managed, seeking commonalities in process that can provide insight into how to better manage even the worst examples. One of the greatest challenges facing both fisheries management and marine conservation today is how to regulate and therefore reduce the impact of the world’s bottom trawl fisheries. 

Bottom trawling is a very common fishing practice in much of the world, providing (with dredging) about a quarter of the world’s fish catch and half of the invertebrates. Many of the world’s bottom trawl fisheries are far from well-managed, particularly in areas such as southeast Asia where they are sustained only by perverse subsidies. Making matters worse, many of the trawls are working to extract any and all life, without discretion or distinction. 

Solutions to this global problem seem untenable, but researchers have made considerable process in understanding the extent and impact of trawl fisheries, as well as approaches and methods for mitigating impact. This symposium will bring together these stories – on biomass fishing, trawl impacts on threatened species, as well as recent advancements in understanding impact and mitigation –seeking insight into how to improve practices in the rest of the world. 

While Sarah Foster and Amanda Vincent are the organisers they are also presenting the following talks: 

8:30 Amanda Vincent - Addressing annihilation trawling and the associated environmental and human rights abuses

8:45 Sarah Foster - Small bycatch of a small fish add up to a lot


Wed 3 Aug, 4:14, Salon C (part of the Marine Policy theme on that day)  
Lindsay Aylesworth  - Taking a dose of our own medicine: implementing conservation policy for marine fishes
What happens when we force ourselves, as providers of conservation advice, to take policy and management action based on that advice?   Conservation advocates and scientists often initiate regulatory change that has significant implications for government but seldom experience the challenge of responding to such change.  In this case study, we place ourselves in the role of the government of Thailand, facing its obligations to seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).   Our team’s evaluations had led CITES to issue direct recommendations to Thailand for remedial action to ensure that its exports of four seahorse species do not damage wild populations. We ran through a CITES-prescribed framework (that we developed) to evaluate the risk to two of these species from various pressures and determine whether appropriate management was enforced and is currently effective.  Three core questions emerged: 1) what pressures are putting wild populations of the species at risk; 2) is management in place to mitigate the risk or offset those pressures; and 3) are the species responding as hoped to the management policy.   Using two key species, we identified risk above a tolerated level for exports of H. trimaculatus because there was a lack of appropriate management in place to mitigate risks.  We also determined risk was tolerable for exports of H. kuda but only with monitoring in place to evaluate how the species was responding to management. Under CITES regulations, exports of both species would be prohibited until more precautionary management emerged.  We found the process of such evaluations to be challenging, even without the obligation to consider social implications of our evaluations.  It became apparent that such evaluations will always be imperfect but this may be acceptable in the context of adaptive management. Conservationists will do well to keep in mind these challenges in their advice and advocacy.  

For more details look at the IMCC program 

New Collaborative Action On Philippines Seahorse Trade

This was originally posted World Ocean’s Day, 8 June 2016 on the IUCN’s SOS (Save Our Species) blog.

Hippocampus histrix. Photo by Bettina Balnis/Guylian Seahorses of the World

Hippocampus histrix. Photo by Bettina Balnis/Guylian Seahorses of the World

The Philippines government now has a plan to move toward sustainable seahorse fisheries and trade, thanks to a successful consultative forum held in March in Cebu, according to Dr. Sarah Foster, Programme Manager with Project Seahorse, an SOS grantee.

This is one small but important conservation success to share on World Oceans Day as we struggle to balance the problems of overfishing, international wildlife trade and sustainable livelihoods worldwide.

The forum’s main output – a government-led action plan for developing and implementing adaptive management for seahorse exploitation and trade in the Philippines- is a critical step in moving toward successful implementation of the newly revised Philippines fisheries law.

“This new law, which came into effect in the autumn of 2015, re-opens the door to the legal catch and trade of seahorses. These are activities that had been illegal, but ongoing, in the Philippines since 2004 because of a blanket ban on fishing and trade in response to the listing of seahorses on Appendix II of CITES ”, explains Foster.

A listing on Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) means that  trade can continue but must be regulated to ensure it is sustainable. However, undocumented and uncontrolled fishing and trade of seahorses have continued in the Philippines, in spite of the ban, adds Foster. “Untrammeled trade is a concern for us as seven of the Philippine seahorse species are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List”, says Foster. ”The other three are categorized as Data Deficient – they may also be threatened but we don’t know enough to assess their status” she adds. Regulating their trade will help with effective conservation for all species in the longer-term.

The future legalisation of seahorse exploitation and trade in the Philippines could be positive for both seahorses and the people that earn income from them – but only if such activities do not harm wild populations. Legal take and trade means that the activities can be monitored and managed, as opposed to continuing underground. Legalisation may also mean improved access to markets for some of the world’s poorest fishers. But preventing harm to seahorses, and ensuring sustainable fisheries well into the future, requires seahorse management and monitoring – neither of which are ongoing in the Philippine at this time.

The new fisheries law has provisions for legal fishing and trade in CITES Appendix II species. What remains is to reconcile this new law with the mechanics of CITES in terms of the acceptable thresholds at which international trade (hopefully derived from managed take) should be allowed. The target for re-opening the fisheries and export of seahorses is the end of 2018, but this will depend on the Philippines’ capacity to properly manage those activities at that time, says Foster.

This forum (co-organized by Project Seahorse, the Zoological Society of London-Philippines, and the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) brought together more than 40 stakeholders from government, academia, inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry to increase national capacity for the management and monitoring of seahorses in the Philippines.

Such a level of engagement is most encouraging. According to Prof. Amanda Vincent, Chair of the IUCN SSC Specialist Group on Seahorses, Pipefishes, and Sticklebacks, “the forum has sown the seeds to create serious support for marine life that the Philippines exports under CITES. In so doing, the Philippines will become one of the world’s leaders in seahorse conservation.”

That is news worth sharing on World Oceans Day!

Project Seahorse work drives new trade bans for West African seahorse hotspots

Fran Otero/iSeahorse.org

Fran Otero/iSeahorse.org

Exports of a vulnerable seahorse species from two west African countries are now banned, thanks to work carried out by Project Seahorse and funded by UK-based wildlife charity, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

Recently the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) — the United Nations body tasked with ensuring that global wildlife trade does not damage wild populations — announced the suspension of all exports of the threatened West African seahorse species (Hippocampus algiricus) from Senegal and Guinea.

“Global demand for seahorses drives the trade of 15-20 million animals every year, with many more being caught. In recent years, the West African seahorse has become highly sought, in part because seahorse populations in Asia have become depleted,” says Prof. Amanda Vincent, co-Principal Investigator, Director of Project Seahorse and Professor in the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at UBC. 

CITES is the only international organization with the ability to enforce export controls. Once a species is placed on Appendix II of the Convention, all 181 member countries must guarantee that any exports are sustainable and that the specimens were obtained legally. 

The decision was largely based on investigations by Project Seahorse scientists working at the University of British Columbia (UBC, Canada), the Zoological Society of London and Imperial College London. The research showed that that the number of West African seahorses in trade had risen dramatically over time, to reported exports as high as 260,000 seahorses in a year. This seahorse species is used primarily in traditional Chinese medicine, with most exports going to China.

“The CITES decision is an important move that should help reduce pressures on wild seahorses in these waters while also providing the context for significant new conservation work in the region,” says Nida Al-Fulaij, of PTES.

The West African seahorses is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Until the Project Seahorse study, virtually nothing was known about the species or the threats it faced. 

Project Seahorse is now planning to support Guinea and Senegal as they move to address CITES recommendations and establish sustainable trade in seahorses.

“The goal is sustainability. Our findings will be shared with the Senegalese and other governments so they can meet their CITES obligations to ensure that in the future their seahorse exports do not harm wild populations,” says Dr. Chris Ransom, co-Principal Investigator and North Africa Programme Manager at ZSL. 

“Together we will help seahorse populations to thrive.”

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Tyler Stiem at t.stiem@projectseahorse.org.


ABOUT THE WEST AFRICAN SEAHORSE

  • The West African seahorse is found primarily along West Africa’s Atlantic coast and Gulf of Guinea, from Senegal to Cote d’Ivoire. Sightings have been confirmed as far south as Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
  • Dr. Amanda Vincent and field researchers Kate West and Dr. Andres Cisneros-Montemayor recently published the first paper on the biology of the species.
  • The West African seahorse is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species because of overfishing and habitat degradation. 
  • Species profile is available here.  


ABOUT THE PARTNERS

Project Seahorse
Project Seahorse is a marine conservation group based at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and at the Zoological Society of London. Project Seahorse works to protect seahorses in order to support ocean conservation more broadly, generating cutting-edge research and using it to inform highly effective conservation interventions. Project Seahorse has won many international awards and honours, and works in collaboration with researchers, governments, conservation groups and local communities worldwide.  It serves as the IUCN SSC Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group.  

Website: www.projectseahorse.org

The University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
The UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF) contributes to a transformative global shift toward sustainable coastal ecosystems, oceans and fisheries. It brings together a community of Canadian and international experts in ocean and freshwater species, systems, economics, and issues—and provides new insights into how our marine systems function, and the impacts of human activity on those systems.

Website: oceans.ubc.ca

Zoological Society of London
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: the key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries worldwide.

Website: www.zsl.org.

Imperial College London
Consistently rated amongst the world's best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Website: www.imperial.ac.uk.


ABOUT THE FUNDERS

Peoples’ Trust for Endangered Species
Since 1977 People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been helping to ensure a future for many endangered species throughout the world. PTES is a registered charity with a board of trustees and thirteen employed staff members. The scale of actual and potential loss of wildlife can seem overwhelming. At the Trust we focus on specific problems and work to preserve endangered species in their natural habitats. We believe that successful conservation is based on sound scientific evidence and advice with practical outcomes. Website: www.ptes.org.

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is a significant philanthropic endowment established to do the following:

•    Provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives
•    Recognize leaders in the field of species conservation; and
•    Elevate the importance of species in the broader conservation debate.
The Fund’s reach is truly global, and its species interest is non-discriminatory. It is open to applications for funding support from conservationists based in all parts of the world, and will potentially support projects focused on any and all kinds of plant, animal and fungus species, subject to the approval of an independent evaluation committee.  
 

Website: www.speciesconservation.org

 

Dr. Amanda Vincent named finalist for Indianapolis Prize for Animal Conservation

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Prize officials announced today the six Finalists for the world’s leading award for animal conservation. In recognition of her successes in the conservation of at-risk species, Dr. Amanda Vincent joins fellow Finalists Dr. Joel Berger, Dr. Dee Boersma, Dr. Rodney Jackson, Dr. Carl Jones and Dr. Carl Safina.

“Amanda and the Finalists for the Indianapolis Prize are heroes in many senses of the word,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, which administers the Indianapolis Prize as part of its core mission. “They’ve sacrificed their own self-interests to help others, and they’ve overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Our world is unquestionably better off because of Dr. Amanda Vincent, and we hope others will not only take notice of, but also join in her noble work to save wild things and wild places.”

Amanda Vincent

Dr. Amanda Vincent largely put seahorse conservation on the map. Not only did she take her studies under the water and into their world, she identified a conservation concern for these  tiny fish and mounted a campaign to secure their future.  

In 1996, she co-founded the first seahorse conservation program, Project Seahorse, which she still directs. She has since led work ranging from behavioral research to global policy. Her team has established 35 no-take marine protected areas in the Philippines and guided  groups that use seahorses for traditional medicines or aquarium display to obtain seahorses carefully.

In 2002, Dr. Vincent had one of her most notable gains, persuading the then 169, and now 181, member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to control seahorse exports to ensure sustainability. This was the first global trade regulation for any marine fishes and set precedent for many other species.

Thanks to Vincent’s blend of research and action, seahorses are now widely considered a flagship species – meaning their conservation ensures the survival and protection of other marine life. For her tireless work to advance seahorse conservation, Vincent has advanced as a Finalist for the 2016 Indianapolis Prize. 

“Amanda connects research and action effectively, and acts on the best available knowledge for the maximum conservation impact,” said Dr. Heather Koldewey, head of global conservation programmes for the Zoological Society of London. “Above all, she seeks solutions, using drive and creativity to find novel approaches to conservation – many of which have far-reaching impact beyond seahorses.”

Dr. Vincent is a Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (formerly the Fisheries Centre). She holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge, UK, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Vincent joins a highly-accomplished roster of 2016 Indianapolis Prize Finalists, which includes:

Joel Berger, Ph.D.: (Wildlife Conservation Society, Colorado State University)

While the Arctic may be known for its polar bears, Dr. Berger strives to save another flagship species at home on the tundra – the muskox. Beyond studying migration paths for large mammals, Dr. Berger’s actionable conservation models help researchers understand populations as modern metaphors for climate change. Dr. Berger was also a Finalist for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Dee Boersma, Ph.D.: (University of Washington Department of Biology)

Penguins, as sentinels of our oceans, have no greater champion than Dr. Boersma. For more than three decades, she has followed the lives of Argentina’s Magellanic penguins to help strengthen protections and conservation efforts for colonies, while studying the seabirds as indicators of environmental change.

Rodney Jackson, Ph.D.: (Snow Leopard Conservancy)

One of the world’s foremost experts on the elusive, endangered snow leopard, Dr. Jackson endures harsh winters and dangerous terrain to track these “ghosts of the mountain” and teach locals how to coexist peacefully with them. Dr. Jackson was also a Finalist for the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis Prize.

Carl Jones, Ph.D.: (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation)

Understanding the importance of every small part of an ecosystem, Dr. Jones has brought a dozen species back from the brink of extinction, including the Mauritius kestrel and echo parakeet. His revolutionary techniques have helped shape conservation work being done on the remote island of Mauritius, including the establishment of its first national park. Dr. Jones was also a Finalist for the 2012 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Carl Safina, Ph.D.: (The Safina Center at Stony Brook University)

A crusader for the ocean and its creatures, Dr. Safina works to effectively connect humans with marine species. He has pioneered innovative approaches to studying species ranging from reef coral to whales, and established a sustainable seafood program, bringing science-based criteria to consumers. Dr. Safina was also a Finalist for the 2010 and 2014 Indianapolis Prize.

Renowned professional conservationists and designated representatives make up the Indianapolis Prize Jury, tasked with naming the 2016 Winner, who will be announced in late spring and honored at the Indianapolis Prize Gala presented by Cummins Inc., to be held Oct. 15, 2016.

The Winner of the Prize will receive an unrestricted $250,000 cash award while the five Finalists will each receive $10,000. In addition to the monetary award, the Winner will receive the prestigious Lilly Medal, a cast bronze medal showcasing the relationship between humans and the natural world.

“Winning the Indianapolis Prize stands out as one of the highlights of my career,” said Dr. Patricia Wright, who in 2014 became the first woman to receive the Indianapolis Prize for her commitment to protecting Madagascar’s lemurs. “It is truly the ‘Nobel Prize’ of animal conservation and the 2016 Finalists represent some of the best and brightest minds in conservation.”

 A History of Indianapolis Prize Winners

The Indianapolis Prize was first awarded in 2006 to George Archibald, Ph.D., the co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The 2008 Winner was George Schaller, Ph.D., known as one of the founding fathers of modern wildlife conservation, and both a senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society and vice president for Panthera. In 2010, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Ph.D., founder of Save the Elephants, received the Prize for his pioneering research in elephant social behavior and for leading the way in the fight against the poaching of African elephants. Steven Amstrup, Ph.D., chief scientist for Polar Bears International, received the 2012 Prize for his work promoting the cause of the world’s largest land carnivore. In 2014, Patricia C. Wright, Ph.D., founder of Centre ValBio, became the first woman awarded the Indianapolis Prize for her dedication to protecting Madagascar’s flemurs.

# # #

ABOUT THE INDIANAPOLIS PRIZE

The Indianapolis Prize was initiated by the Indianapolis Zoo as a significant component of its mission to empower people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. This biennial award brings the world’s attention to the cause of animal conservation and the brave, talented and dedicated men and women who spend their lives saving the Earth’s endangered animal species. The Indianapolis Prize has received support from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation since its inception in 2004.


MEDIA CONTACTS

Gina Bestbier
r.bestbier@projectseahorse.org
+1 604.649.2239

Heather Amos
heather.amos@ubc.ca
+ 1 604.828.3867

A new year brings a new you: making smart consumer choices

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make changes in hopes of becoming a better you. This year, why not add making smarter consumer choices to your list of resolutions! 

Every little decision we make in our daily lives has the potential to create big results for the future of our planet. Here are a few simple things you can do to help keep our ocean healthy: 
 

Eat less shrimp!

One of the simplest, most effective things you can do to protect marine habitats around the world is to avoid eating farmed or trawled shrimp. Shrimp trawling and farming are among the most destructive activities that occur in our ocean. Every year, it destroys thousands of miles of coastal habitats around the world. Sourcing shrimp from certified organic farms is one way to enjoy them responsibly. This Seachoice Shrimp Guide is a great starting point.


Eat sustainable seafood!

With today’s technology, it has become much easier for us to find out where our food comes from. Smartphone apps and other guides can help you choose seafood that is good for both you and our ocean. Check out MSC Ecolabel, Seafood Watch, and SeaChoice.


Avoid plastic products!

Ten percent of all plastic we throw away ends up in our oceans, breaking down into tiny particles called microplastics. These particles are so tiny that they can end up in the blood and tissue of marine animals, and make their way up the food chain. The problem is, microplastics are so small and our oceans are so vast that a clean-up is never going to be an option. This is where you come in: the first and best step is to prevent plastics from getting into the ocean in the first place. Use plastic products sparingly and recycle, recycle, recycle! We're not just talking about plastic bottles and bags, even beauty products contain microbead plastics that wash down the drain and end up in the ocean. Here's a great smartphone app that can help you choose products without plastics.

 

Remember, the choices we make today become the legacy we hand off to future generations. Let’s start making smart consumer choices together!

 

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UBC researchers catch rare video of wild seahorse birth

The expectant father clings to seagrass and soon tiny creatures resembling filaments of string begin to emerge from deep within a pouch on his abdomen. Within seconds the newborn seahorses are swept away by the fast moving water.

Two UBC researchers were fortunate enough to witness this male seahorse giving birth in the waters off New South Wales in Australia in early November. They caught the moment on camera in one of the few videos of a birth in the wild.

“We were doing a survey and found a very, very pregnant male that had a tiny tail sticking out of his brood pouch,” said Clayton Manning, a master’s student with Project Seahorse, a marine conservation group based at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Zoological Society of London. “I had just finished getting his measurements and a baby shot out of the opening. So we sat back and watched the father for a while.”

Manning and Meagan Abele, a Project Seahorse research assistant, are working on a seahorse conservation project in Port Stephens, Australia. They dive and search for seahorses living in the protected waterway to learn about the habitats that best support seahorse populations. The species living in these waters is known as the White’s or Sydney seahorse or by its Latin name Hippocampus whitei.

While seahorse reproduction is well documented, most existing videos of seahorses giving birth are from aquariums. Fortunately Abele had a camera on hand and captured the special moment in nature.

“This is their time to breed,” said Abele, a UBC alumna. “Many of the males we’re finding are super pregnant and ready to burst. It’s surreal to watch it happen.”

Unlike most other animals, female seahorses deposit eggs into a pouch on the male’s adbomen. The males then fertilize, carry and nourish the developing embryos in a form of pregnancy. White’s seahorses carry the babies for three weeks before they are released from the pouch fully formed; about 100 to 250 babies are born at a time.

Worldwide seahorse populations face pressures from fishing, particularly bottom trawling, and habitat degradation. While it is known that seahorses live in many shallow ocean areas around the world, we don’t know a lot about the specific habitat characteristics the affect their numbers.

Manning hopes to better understand how the seagrass, sponge and soft coral habitats of Port Stephens help support the seahorse population in the area. While seahorse numbers have declined precipitously in many parts of the world, Australian populations are generally doing well, providing important research opportunities and reference points.

The project is supervised by Amanda Vincent, UBC professor and Director of Project Seahorse, and David Harasti, of NSW Department of Primary Industries who did his PhD thesis on White’s seahorses in the region. Vincent is also the Chair of the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group, the globally appointed expert group on seahorses and their conservation.

Note: Manning and Abele are in Australia and are available for interviews by telephone or Skype after 2:30 p.m.

Season's Greetings from all of us at Project Seahorse

All of us at Project Seahorse wish you the very best for this holiday season.  Thank you for your continued support and engagement in our efforts to save seahorses and the shallow seas. Together let's create many more reasons for ocean optimism in 2016! 


In honour of Denise Nielsen Tackett's memory - Denise's pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise). Photo by Els van den Borre/Guylian SOTW.  

 



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Our top 10 iSeahorse contributors

To celebrate the second anniversary of iSeahorse, we would like to thank and recognize iSeahorse's top 10 contributors:

Phil Mercurio

Vincent Moy

Francisco Otero Ferrer

David Rolla

Mark Rosenstein

Ken Flanagan

Kati Hachenberg

Martijn Hickmann

Tine Kinn Kvamme

Jeffrey Low
 

These users have spotted the most seahorses and/or the most species from around the world. It is users like these who have driven the success of iSeahorse over the past two years. As a token of our appreciation, each of our top contributors will be receiving a prize pack of chocolates from our major sponsor, Guylian Chocolates Belgium.

One of our top contributors, Martijn Hickmann, in action. Photo courtesy of Martijn Hickmann

One of our top contributors, Martijn Hickmann, in action. Photo courtesy of Martijn Hickmann

Another one of our top contributors, David Rolla. Photo courtesy of David Rolla

Another one of our top contributors, David Rolla. Photo courtesy of David Rolla

We also want to give a very special thank you to Guylian Chocolates Belgium, without whom we would not be as successful as we are today.

If you haven’t already, please join iSeahorse.org today and starting sharing your seahorse sightings! You too can make a difference and help us protect these amazing animals.