Introducing the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group

An ornate ghost pipefish, one of the over 350 species under the remit of the Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons

An ornate ghost pipefish, one of the over 350 species under the remit of the Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Today, on World Oceans Day 2015, we’re excited to introduce the IUCN SSC Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group (SPS SG).

Bringing together the world’s leading experts on seahorses and their relatives, the SPS SG is dedicated to the conservation of 350 species of fishes. These include some of the ocean’s strangest and most beautiful fishes, such as ghost pipefishesseadragonssea mothstrumpetfishes, and tube-snouts.

Most species under the SPS SG live in shallow coastal seas, show elaborate male parental care and have long tube snouts. Many populations are declining because of poor fishing practices or habitat loss and some species are threatened with extinction. At the same time, there have been some remarkable success stories in supporting these fantastic fishes, and much more can yet be done.

“These incredible animals must be safeguarded for their own wondrous existence and also for ecological, economic, medical and cultural reasons. They are important contributors to their seagrass, mangrove, coral and estuarine ecosystems.” says Dr. Amanda Vincent, SPS SG Chair and Director of Project Seahorse.

“We must manage their extraction for traditional medicines, aquarium display and souvenirs, and care for their marine homes. One reason is that the extraordinary life history of some of these species — in seahorses, for example, only the males become pregnant — provides us with an unusual opportunity to expand our understanding of how parenting evolved and what it means for other sex differences.

IUCN SSC Specialist Groups provide independent technical and scientific advice to governments and other institutions to ensure that wild animal and plant populations are healthy and well-managed. The SPS SG assesses the threat of extinction for these animals, develops conservation action plans for threatened species, and helps support field conservation projects around the world.

The new SPS SG website, launched today, shares information about these remarkable wildlife species with scientists, conservationists, policymakers, and the public. It features regularly updated species conservation assessments and biological profiles, promotes actions needed to protect threatened populations, and includes a one-stop bibliography of published research on the over 200 species covered by the SPS SG.

Learn more about these quirky fishes and the conservation action we must take on the newly launched SPS SG website, and be sure to look out for our latest IUCN Red List species assessments, to be published later this month.