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North America's Smallest Seahorse Endangered by Gulf oil Spill

By Kirsten E. Silven - 08 Apr 2011 7:1:0 GMT
North America's Smallest Seahorse Endangered by Gulf oil Spill

The dwarf seahorse, which resides in seagrass located throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean, is threatened with extinction from pollution caused by the Gulf oil spill disaster. Populations of dwarf seahorses were already in danger, but the gulf oil spill of 2010 has prompted the Center to file a petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the dwarf seahorse.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, yet another piece of evidence has presented itself to showcase the nasty aftereffects of last year's disaster in the Gulf. This time, the smallest seahorse in the US is at the center of the issue. The species was already in danger, but the gulf oil spill of 2010 has prompted the Center to file a petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for the dwarf seahorse.

A tiny creature that is typically less that one inch at full size, the seahorse calls the sea grass beds along the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean home, but commercial collection, followed by the horrific pollution resulting from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, has threatened the tiny creatures with extinction.

''Our country's smallest seahorse is just one of the many victims of ongoing pollution from the Gulf oil spill disaster,'' said Tierra Curry, who is a conservation biologist at the Center and authored the petition. ''The dwarf seahorse now needs Endangered Species Act protection to have a fighting chance of survival.''

Populations of dwarf seahorses were already struggling prior to contamination from the BP oil spill, due to worsening water quality, destruction caused by boat propellers and shrimp trawlers and climate change. These factors were bad enough, but combined with the pollution from oil and the dispersants used to break it up, much of the remaining sea grasses, are being wiped out. Since dwarf seahorses are habitat specialists (meaning they require a very specific habitat type for their entire life cycle), losing sea grass means losing seahorses.

''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 remarked in a statement to the press. ''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.''

Sadly, since the 1950's Florida has lost more than half of its sea grasses; in some areas up to 90 percent of it is gone. In addition, the Center for Biological Diversity reports that Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and the Bahamas have also seen serious losses.

Image: Seahorse example.