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Great Seahorse


A study indicated that extensive fishing off the Coromandel coast could be forcing the great seahorse to migrate towards Odisha.


GS Iii: Environment and Ecology, Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Seahorse
  2. Reasons for Decline and Migration of Great Seahorse
  3. What are the Challenges with Migration?

About Seahorse

Shape and Classification:
  • Seahorses are a type of tiny fish named after the shape of their head resembling a tiny horse. They are classified as fish, in the genus Hippocampus.
  • There are 46 species of seahorses worldwide, and India is home to 9 out of 12 species found in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Seahorses are found in shallow coastal waters between latitudes of about 52° N to 45° S.
  • In India, these 9 species are distributed along the coasts of eight states and five Union Territories from Gujarat to Odisha, including Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Seahorse populations in India are distributed across diverse ecosystems such as seagrass, mangroves, macroalgal beds, and coral reefs.
Swimming and Migration:
  • When swimming, seahorses maintain a vertical position and propel themselves forward using a soft-rayed dorsal fin.
  • They migrate by rafting, clinging to floating substrata such as macroalgae or plastic debris for dispersal by ocean currents.
Reproductive Habits:
  • Seahorses have unique reproductive habits where the male gives birth to offspring. The female uses an ovipositor (egg duct) to place her eggs into a brood pouch located at the base of the male’s tail where the eggs are later fertilized.
Conservation Status:
  • Seahorses are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.
  • They are listed in Appendix II of CITES, which regulates their international trade to ensure their survival.

Reasons for Decline and Migration of Great Seahorse

  • The population of the Great seahorse is declining due to various factors such as overexploitation for traditional Chinese medicines, ornamental fish, general destructive fishing, and fisheries bycatch.
  • These activities put immense pressure on seahorse populations that depend on local habitats to maintain their long-life history traits.
  • The Great seahorse migrates approximately 1,300 km northward from Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar to Odisha.
  • This migration is believed to be a response to extensive fishing activities around the southern coast of India.  Around 13 million seahorses are caught every year on the Coromandel coast.

What are the Challenges with Migration?

Lack of Suitable Habitats:
  • The Odisha coast lacks the necessary seagrass meadows or coral reefs that are essential habitats for seahorses, except for the Chilika region.
  • Without these habitats, the seahorses may find it difficult to survive and thrive during their migration.
Lack of Conservation Measures:
  • The migration of seahorses from Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar to Odisha highlights the lack of conservation and management measures in the coastal ecosystems of India’s east coast.
  • The absence of proper monitoring makes it challenging to safeguard the remaining seahorse populations.
  • Therefore, there is a need for better conservation and management practices to protect seahorses during their migration.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023