You can’t make this stuff up. On the first day of summer, a Northern Lined seahorse was found in a seine net while seining along Sandy Hook Bay, downstream from New York City and located near the entrance to New York Harbor. An exciting way for sure to start the summer season.
Who would have thought seahorses could exist here, an estuary with the most developed coastline in America. The sight of a small aquatic animal, a captivating symbol of estuaries, brought smiles to everyone’s faces. Many pictures were taken as proof they do in fact live here, along with some selfies of course. Thankfully the little fish was able to survive the star treatment before being released back safely into the bay to live out its life, albeit a little bit wiser perhaps to keep away from fishing nets.
Seahorses appear almost as mystical creatures, like unicorns and fairies, with a head like a horse and a tail like a monkey. But seahorses are real, and they really do exist in New York Harbor.
This little sea creature was probably hanging out along a piling, foraging on small shrimp and plankton with its long, tubular snout before being ensnared in a seine net. Seahorses are voracious eaters. An adult can consume 30 to 50 shrimp a day
The Northern Lined seahorse is the only native seahorse living in New York Harbor. Yet it has a much broader ranger that extends from Nova Scotia to South America, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
During the summer, seahorses prefer to live among seaweed, pilings, piers, sponges, or any solid structure in shallow waters around New York Harbor. During the winter, seahorses will migrate to deeper waters in the bay.
Who knows how many seahorses live in New York Harbor? Since Northern Lined seahorses are able to change color and camouflage their body to suit surroundings and backgrounds, they are able not only to hide from predators, but from marine scientists as well.
What we do know is that adult male and female seahorses are monogamous, and often form strong pair bonds after courtship. During reproduction, the female will lay her eggs into the male’s brood pouch, where they are fertilized and incubated. Dad will take care of the eggs for approximately two weeks before hatching. The male will then release 100 to 300 tiny, fully formed seahorses into the estuary. Juveniles are less than one-quarter of an inch long and will quickly be independent and take on the lifestyle of an adult seahorse. But it’s not an easy life. Less than one in a thousand will survive long enough to become an adult due to large aquatic predators.
Even adult seahorses face many threats. Since seahorses are generally poor swimmers, they can be an easy catch when found. They frequently move slowly and rely on their dorsal fin beating at 30 to 70 times per second to propel it along. Pectoral fins either side of the head help with stability and steering.
According to The Seahorse Trust, the top worldwide threats to seahorses include:
Trawling is another major threat to seahorses. Every year, trawlers drag up an area of seabed twice the size of the continental U.S., catching millions of seahorses and other fishes and destroying vital habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, estuaries, and seagrass beds.
Please protect our seahorse population in New York Harbor. Don’t buy them as pets, don’t buy dead seahorses as souvenirs and don’t buy medicine made from seahorses. To find out the top 10 ways to help seahorses, please check out this website by SeaMonster.