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contact: Kathie Fulgham - 423/785-3007 or Katrina Craven - 423/785-3011


Protecting Seahorses in the wild

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Feb. 21, 2002) - The enchanting creatures known as seahorses are unique and captivating animals whose survival is seriously threatened. Seahorses can be found in tropical and temperate seas all over the world and adults have few major natural predators. This is primarily because they are covered with bony plates and may be a less-than-tasty morsel for larger fish. However, several factors are contributing to the decline of seahorses and their relatives.

One cause of the declining populations is loss of habitat. These fragile animals live in coastal grassy areas, mangrove swamps and coral reefs - all areas that coincide with human activities. Pollution, changing shorelines and harmful fishing methods contribute to habitat loss and increase the seahorses' vulnerability.

Overfishing is another reason for the decline in seahorse numbers. The demand for seahorses far exceeds the supply. Most seahorses that are caught - an astounding 20 million a year - are used in traditional Chinese medicine. In some cultures, it is believed that seahorses benefit or cure many conditions including asthma, impotence and general lethargy.

In addition, millions of dried seahorses are purchased as souvenirs, to be used on key chains and as jewelry. Many are also sold for use in home aquariums, but few of these animals survive for long because maintaining seahorses requires resources not easily accessible to home aquarium enthusiasts. The United States is the largest importer of live seahorses.

According to Jackson Andrews, Tennessee Aquarium director of operations and husbandry, an increase in public education and awareness is necessary to protect these beautiful and threatened animals.

"One of the goals of the Aquarium's new gallery, "Seahorses: Beyond Imagination," is to make our visitors aware of the challenges facing these delicate creatures," Andrews said. "By inspiring wonder and awe in our visitors, we hope they will come away from this exhibit with a desire to play an active part in protecting seahorses."

Help protect seahorses:
Beyond visiting the Aquarium's seahorse gallery and supporting conservation efforts, there are things that can be done to help:

  • Don't buy dried seahorses in craft stores or at beach shops. They were actually live animals, killed simply to make decorative trinkets.

  • Don't keep seahorses in home aquariums. Seahorses have special water quality and food needs that only the most expert home aquarists can meet.

  • Take care to protect our local waters, many of which flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Recycle your motor oil and apply lawn fertilizer sparingly. These local actions can help safeguard seahorse habitats miles from home.

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The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $14 per adult and $7.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.75 per adult and $5.25 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $18 for adults and $10.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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