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article image‘Endangered species’ status sought for dwarf seahorse

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 7, 2011 in Environment
New Orleans - The dwarf seahorse, a one-inch long seahorse facing increased pressures for survival due to last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, was petitioned for Endangered Species Act protection this week by a conservation group.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a petition (pdf) on Wednesday that seeks protection for the tiny seahorse, threatened by last year’s BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, habitat degradation and commercial collection pressures.
“Our country’s tiniest seahorse is just one of the many victims of ongoing pollution from the Gulf oil spill disaster,” said Tierra Curry, a CBD conservation biologist and author of the petition, according to a Center statement. “The dwarf seahorse now needs Endangered Species Act protection to have a fighting chance of survival,” she added.
Even before the BP debacle, the dwarf seahorse numbers were declining. Oil pollution and the dispersants used to keep the oil concealed are toxic to the seahorse and its seagrass beds habitat.
“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 said in the news release. “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.”
The petition comes at a time when the Obama administration has ramped up its permitting process for deepwater drilling. Less than a year after BP’s blown out Macondo well in the Gulf, an event that became the country’s greatest environmental disaster to date, and as emerging reports continue to reveal, an ongoing assault on the environment, the US government has issued at least eight permits to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf.
Seagrass beds are vital to the survival of the dwarf seahorse, a habitat specialist. Yet their habitat continues to disappear from a combination of factors. Pollution, declining water quality, boat propeller damage, shrimp trawlers, and global warming are all threatening their survival.
Along Florida’s shores alone, more than half of its seagrasses have disappeared since 1950. In some areas, that number exceeds 90 percent. There have also been dramatic seagrass losses in the Bahamas and along other Gulf coast states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
The dwarf seahorse is one of the slowest moving fish known, with its top speed being about five feet per hour. They live for only one year.
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