These two handsome Lined (Northern) seahorses (Hippocampus erectus) were recorded by iSeahorse/iNaturalist users elli_ofthenorth (left) and nsbga (right) far from their usual home. The left one was found swimming in eastern Nova Scotia, Canada in the western Atlantic Ocean while the right one was found dead on a pile of seaweed in eastern Nova Scotia in the Bay of Fundy.
So what, you may ask?
Lined seahorses are typically spotted among mangroves, seagrass, corals, sponges, and floating mosses all around the Caribbean and Central America, not in Canada! BUT, these two rare sightings in Nova Scotia, reported in late 2021, are becoming more common. Seahorses have been spotted much further north in 2020, 2017, 2015 and 2013.
So, clearly these seahorses were far away from home. But how did they get there? Although they are reported to occur in Nova Scotia, their presence in Canada is still uncertain. Do they usually live here but we rarely see them? Or are they finding a new home along our coast? Perhaps like many other marine species they are moving north and finding new habitats as our climate and ocean warms. So many questions!
This discovery is important because Lined seahorses are listed as being globally Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their shallow seas habitats are being destroyed by coastal development, pollution, sedimentation and destructive fishing practices (such as bottom trawling).
How can you help? While I'm not telling you to stop eating fish there are many things you can do to help seahorses and the seas. You can start by treating marine fishes as wildlife and avoid eating fish and other marine life that came from bottom trawls. And, of course, spread the word! Find out more about seahorses and what you can do for them here projectseahorse.org/take-action/take-individual-steps.
Written by Nathan Mao, Project Seahorse undergraduate volunteer