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Baguage souple et inofensif pour identification d'un géniteur. (Ph. P. Lelong)
Baguage souple et inofensif pour identification d’un géniteur. (Ph. P. Lelong)
Mesure de la taille des hippocampes par le responsable de l'écloserie. (Ph. P. Lelong)
Mesure de la taille des hippocampes par le responsable de l’écloserie. (Ph. P. Lelong)
Rotifères, base alimentaire des premiers jours du jeune hippocampe. (Ph. T. Miard)
Rotifères, base alimentaire des premiers jours du jeune hippocampe. (Ph. T. Miard)

The seahorse is becoming rare in the Mediterranean, threatened by pollution and the destruction of its natural habitat. These highly vulnerable populations are in some cases in danger of extinction. In the Mediterranean basin and in the Atlantic, two species of seahorse are usually encountered : the short-snouted seahorse, Hippocampus hippocampus, and the spotted seahorse, Hippocampus guttulatus.

The aim of the researchers at the Paul Ricard Oceanography Institute is to develop a programme focused on extending knowledge of the Mediterranean seahorse species and preserving them. The research will cover several aspects :
-  acquiring knowledge on this still poorly known fish, its biology and ecology, monitoring the natural populations, assessing their vulnerability in the natural environment ;
-  developing methods of seahorse rearing in captivity at the Research Centre’s experimental hatchery at Les Embiez (near Toulon, S.E. France) ;
-  examining the feasibility of reintroducing and monitoring the seahorse in suitable and previously identified zones ;
-  transferring the techniques of rearing to countries where the seahorse is in danger of extinction, the aim being to offer alternatives to the deliberate fishing of the seahorse in its natural environment.

A possible alternative : extensive rearing
On the basis of the first attempts carried out at the Oceanography Institute experimental hatchery, the development of a protocol for the extensive rearing of the seahorse might be envisaged.

The principle is to enrich the natural environment in order to produce in large quantities microalgae that will be consumed by zooplankton. Consisting initially of rotifers and copepods, then of Artemia salina, these living prey will immediately serve as food for the seahorses introduced into this environment.

The first experimental production of the seahorse Hippocampus guttulatus, at the Paul Ricard Oceanography Institute hatchery, achieved satisfactory results : 224 seahorses out of the 288 newly hatched survived, or a survival rate of 78 %.

Several tens of seahorses produced by rearing were donated to several public aquariums in France and abroad. This operation shows that it is feasible to supply aquariums with living animals, especially if they are rare and endangered. The aquaculture industry should make it possible to reduce catches in the natural environment and thus preserve the biodiversity.

Poisson apparenté à l’hippocampe
Landy SoambolaO A., A. Riva, N. Vicente, 2006
Contribution à l’élevage des Syngnathes. In : Bassins et élevages aquatiques d’ornement. 21-22 mai 2006, Nice, France. Mém. Inst. océanogr. Paul Ricard, pp : 47-54.
Sommaire | Mémoire (4,5 Mo)

Protection of the seahorse

The two species of seahorse identified in the Mediterranean are registered on the red list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) under the heading ‘endangered species’. They are also registered in Appendix II of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (*). Finally, they feature in Annexe II (endangered or threatened species) of the Protocol relative to Specially Protected Areas and to Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean, known as the Barcelona Convention, and Appendix II (strictly protected species of fauna) of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, known as the Bern Convention

To date, in France, the legislation to give the seahorse the real status of a protected species is not in force.