By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium
The Kentucky Derby is only weeks away and Newport Aquarium is bringing ‘horses’ of a different kind to Northern Kentucky. After months of anticipation, Seahorses: Unbridled Fun opens to the public April 9th. Newport Aquarium staff has been working around the clock, creating the most interactive seahorse exhibit you’ve ever seen. Guests can discover 10 species of seahorses and their relatives from the family of Sygnathids – which includes Sea Dragons, Pipefish, Razorfish, Trumpetfish and Seahorses.
Seahorses and their relatives can be found around the world. They live in mangrove forests, coastal seagrass and coral reefs. In Seahorses: Unbridled Fun, guests can discover the unique characteristics seahorses have that equip them to live in these environments. Seahorses use their tail to grab and hold onto corals and grasses. They have eyes that work independently like chameleon eyes. Seahorses can hover and swim with the agility of a hummingbird.
In the exhibit, guests can design their own seahorse using custom computer technology. Each guest can use these unique characteristics and build a seahorse to email home or to friends.
There are several threats to seahorses around the world. What can you do to protect these amazing creatures? Maybe the easiest is to start eating shrimp – responsibly. You have to know where your shrimp is coming from and how it’s raised.
Seahorses and other marine life are caught in nets used in fishing for shrimp. Wild shrimp are caught through ‘trawl netting’ which is bad for the marine environments. Trawlers drag the seabed catching everything in their path and destroying the habitat.
Download the Seafood Watch App. This is one of the best ways to quickly find out more about the fish or shrimp that you’re ready to buy, and you can check if it is sustainable. Start looking for freshwater shrimp or prawns. This species does not have such an impact on the marine ecosystems and coastal waters.
Coral reefs and coastal seagrass habitats are home to many seahorse species. These marine environments are impacted even here in Newport Aquarium’s Tri-State region. From Banklick Creek to the Licking River, to the Ohio and eventually down to the Gulf of Mexico, our waterways will affect the oceans. What we do locally can make a global difference.
Seahorses are a good example of an indicator species. If the habitat is healthy, seahorses are seen in abundance and thriving. If the habitat is struggling with environmental threats, there will be few to no seahorses to be found.
I would like to invite everyone to come and discover the wonder of seahorses together with your families and have some “Unbridled Fun.”