In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed that the dwarf seahorse may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act and is accepting comments until July 3 before making a decision. The smallest seahorse in America, the dwarf seahorse faces big problems: water quality degradation in the Gulf of Mexico, pollution from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and cleanup and, most importantly, loss of their seagrass habitat.
Dwarf seahorses are habitat specialists, so as seagrasses disappear, the seahorses vanish with them. More than 50 percent of Florida seagrasses have been destroyed since 1950, and in some areas losses are as steep as 90 percent. These one-inch-long fish are not the only wildlife that depends on seagrass to survive, but they are the cutest.
Dwarf seahorses form monogamous pair bonds, and every morning they meet to perform a greeting dance. As with other seahorses, females place scores of eggs inside the males’ pouches, and the males then give birth to even tinier versions of adults. Boat propellers, shrimp trawlers and ocean acidification are all harming the seagrass these delicate animals need to survive.