They are fantastical-looking; these charismatic and peculiar creatures, and they can be found in South Florida’s backyard. Seahorses and pipefish make their home in mangroves, seagrasses, estuaries, and reefs, like those found in the Biscayne National Park, and are flagship species for a wide range of marine conservation issues.
Project Seahorse, an international marine conservation group, is hosting an awareness program focused on the preservation of this species in South Florida. In April and May of 2017, Project Seahorse M.Sc student researcher, Emilie Stump, will tour around South Florida engaging people in thought and conversation about Biscayne National Park, the threats its faces, and what they can do to help.One of the ongoing events for the month of April is an exhibition of seahorse paintings by Miami-based artist Xavier Cortada. “Through art, we help communities visualize themselves as change agents, and I paint seahorses to draw viewers in,” said Cortada. “I want to engage them as environmental stewards and I want them to engage in eco-actions. I want them to make a personal commitment to help protect seahorse habitats from environmental degradation and the impacts of global climate change.”
“Blending art and science is a multidisciplinary approach, and can truly build the awareness necessary for meaningful conservation gains,” said Dr. Amanda Vincent, Director of Project Seahorse and Professor, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. “It is a hallmark of our work and Project Seahorse is thrilled to be working with Miami-based artist Xavier Cortada and the H.W. Hoover Foundation on this campaign to raise South Floridians’ awareness of the magical creatures in their backyard.”
“We believe sharing knowledge of our local magical creatures, like the seahorses, will help educate and inspire people to understand and care for this beautiful and fragile Park upon which our own health depends,” said Caiti Pomerance, Program & Outreach Director, for the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, which is supporting Project Seahorse’s awareness project. “Similar to the seahorses, our own well-being is dictated by Biscayne National Park’s water quality and ability to maintain seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs. By drawing the connection between the condition of our local seahorses, the state of Biscayne National Park, and our own personal health, we hope to evolve initial compassion for our seahorses into lasting positive action for this unique National Park.”
Water quality issues, plastics and other marine debris, as well as habitat damage from boats, jet skis and other watercraft, threaten the seahorse species (like the lined seahorse, the dwarf seahorse and the pipefish) that can be found in the Biscayne National Park and South Florida’s coastal waters. “Seahorses lead extraordinary lives; they are important predators on bottom-dwelling organisms, some species are seasonally monogamous, and only the males become pregnant. Unfortunately they are also particularly threatened by changes in coastal ecosystems,” said Vincent.
More information about the awareness program