Dwarf seahorses threatened by BP oil spill, deserve protection, environmental group says


The dwarf seahorse, which makes its home in seagrass beds along the coastline of Louisiana and other Gulf states, should be given endangered or threatened species status because of threats to its habitat by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its overcollection for the aquarium trade, according to a petition filed today by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Stickpen, Wikimedia Commons websiteDwarf seahorse, hippocampus zosterae, at the Birch Aquarium, San Diego, California, in December 2009.

“Our country’s tiniest seahorse is just one of the many victims of ongoing pollution from the Gulf oil spill disaster,” said Tierra Curry, conservation biologist at the center. “The dwarf seahorse now needs Endangered Species Act protection to have a fighting chance of survival.”

The petition was filed with the Department of Commerce, which oversees Endangered Species Act protection of ocean species through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While the tiny seahorse was threatened by its overcollection for aquariums and the loss of seagrass beds in Florida and other states prior to last year’s oil spill, the effects of the Macondo well’s oil and dispersants used to break it up have added to stresses on the species, she said.

“Oil spills like the one nearly a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico exact a long and terrible toll on marine life, especially species like the dwarf seahorse that have already been struggling to survive,” Curry said. “These kinds of catastrophic spills will continue to be a threat as long as our country continues to push for more and more offshore drilling.”

The dwarf seahorse is the smallest of the four seahorse species found in the United States, and it is the third-smallest seahorse in the world.

Seahorse reproduction is unusual in that it’s the male of the species that becomes pregnant. Dwarf seahorses live for only one year.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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