The latest on our seahorse conservation work

By Leorah Gavidor, Visitors Service Team Member

Did you know Birch Aquarium shares baby seahorses with other aquariums? By way of our seahorse propagation program, Birch Aquarium has sent baby seahorses to 100 destinations across the country. Sharing seahorses is part of the aquarium’s commitment to conservation.

A hardy species — Lined Seahorse (hippocampus erectus) — is the most popular for sharing. Most recently, our aquarists have shipped young Lined Seahorses to the Sea Life Aquarium in Carlsbad, the New York Aquarium, the Virginia Living Museum, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

When baby seahorses are 4-6 months old and a minimum of 2 inches in size, they’re big enough to make the journey. Babies must also be feeding well — on frozen mysis (tiny shrimp) — before they’re ready to go. Since we began sharing seahorses in 2012, we have sent out almost 5,000 babies!

“It’s so rewarding for us to be able to raise and share babies from our seahorses that have given birth,” said curator Leslee Matsushige. “And it’s part of our conservation mission.” Leslee has been raising seahorses at Birch Aquarium since 1995, and is a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission for seahorses, pipefish, and seadragons.

The Pacific Seahorse (hippocampus ingens) is another species we share, with recent shipments to Cabrillo Aquarium and Ocean Rider in Hawaii. Thirteen different species of seahorses have lived here at Birch Aquarium over the years; currently we have eight. Sharing seahorses helps conserve the species by ensuring that aquarium populations stay healthy with a mix of genetics.

  • Lined Seahorses are listed by the World Conservation Union as a “threatened” species.
  • Joining our partners in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Birch Aquarium’s seahorse and seadragon conservation efforts are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperatively managed program that oversees the population management of select species within AZA member institutions and enhances conservation of species in the wild. Pacific Seahorses are the only seahorse species native to the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

If you love seahorses and other members of the Syngnathid family — seadragons, pipefish, and pipedragons — you can virtually attend the SyngBio Conference May 17-21 for free. You can also see seahorses at Birch Aquarium in the Seadragons & Seahorses exhibition as well as in the Hall of Fishes. Spot them holding onto eelgrass with their prehensile tails, or floating slowly with the current.