Seahorses compose the fish genus Hippocampus within the family Syngnathidae, in order Syngnathiformes. Syngnathidae also includes the pipefishes. "Hippocampus" comes from the Ancient Greek hippos meaning “horse” and kampos meaning “sea monster”. There are nearly 50 species of seahorse. They are mainly found in shallow tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. They prefer to live in sheltered areas such as seagrass beds, coral reefs, or mangroves. Colonies have been found in European waters such as the Thames Estuary. From North America down to South America there are approximately four species, ranging from the very small (dwarf seahorses are only about 2.5 centimeters (1 in) to much larger specimens off the Pacific Coast of Central America (the foot-long H. ingens). H. erectus are larger seahorses that range from Nova Scotia. Seahorse populations are thought to have been endangered in recent years by overfishing and habitat destruction. The seahorse is used in traditional Chinese herbology, and as many as 20 million seahorses may be caught each year and sold for this purpose.[ Medicinal seahorses are not readily bred in captivity as they are susceptible to disease and have somewhat different energetics from aquarium seahorses. Seahorses are also used as medicines by the Indonesians, the Central Filipinos, and many other ethnic groups around the world. Import and export of seahorses has been controlled under CITES since May 15, 2004. However, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, and South Korea have chosen to opt out of the trade rules set by CITES. The problem may be exacerbated by the growth of pills and capsules as the preferred method of ingesting medication as they are cheaper and more available than traditional, individually tailored prescriptions of raw medicinals but the contents are harder to track. Seahorses once had to be of a certain size and quality before they were accepted by TCM practitioners and consumers. But declining availability of the preferred large, pale and smooth seahorses has been offset by the shift towards prepackaged medicines, which make it possible for TCM merchants to sell previously unused juvenile, spiny and dark-coloured animals. Today almost a third of the seahorses sold in China are prepackaged. This adds to the pressure on the species.
Stay in marked boating lanes while out on the water. Get a map to help you navigate. This will help you avoid sensitive sea grass areas that may house seahorses. In addition, it will help save other animals such as manatees.
Encourage others on the water to preserve sea grass and talk to them about the plight of seahorses and seahorse conservation.