Cavallets de mar Balears project, a joint initiative launched by the Palma Aquarium Foundation and Banca March to protect the seahorse population
Seahorses are an excellent indicator of the health of marine ecosystems, but they are also extremely vulnerable animals.
In recent decades, the number of common seahorses has fallen dramatically. Indeed, in the Mediterranean, seahorse populations have decreased by between 25 and 30%.
These figures are a cause for deep concern, and we are therefore convinced of the need to breed a new generation of individuals in an attempt to boost the existing population or ensure a sufficiently large population to allow the species to increase its population naturally.
March 2022 saw the launch of the “Cavallets de mar Balears” project, aimed at facilitating the reproduction of the seahorses that live in the Mediterranean Sea within a controlled artificial environment before returning them to their natural habitat.
This two-year project has been made possible thanks to the commitment to sustainability and ocean conservation shown by both entities. Banca March has allocated part of the annual management commission from the “Mediterranean Fund” for sustainability to the development of this initiative.
Our objective is to bring together several pairs of sexually mature seahorses in order to acclimatise them and stimulate reproduction. In this case, our efforts have centred on a pair of common seahorses (Hippocampus Hippocampus) and another pair of seahorses from the Mediterranean Sea (Hippocampus Guttulattus).
Once the reproduction phase has ended, it is necessary to breed and feed the newborns. This is the most complex stage. The newborn seahorses are approximately one centimetre long, and the fact that they are so small and light means that they require very special care.
The design of the tanks is also crucial, together with other factors such as the temperature, light, filtration and water circulation, etc. During this phase, the fry are also taught to eat different varieties of plankton that provide the nutrients they need, such as artemia, mysis, micro-algae, rotifers and copepods, etc. To produce this living food, an on-site plankton production laboratory has been set up at the Palma Aquarium. When the fry have grown enough to survive in their natural environment, they will be returned to their habitat.
Here at the Palma Aquarium we are extremely excited about this project, and will continue to work hard to contribute to the conservation of marine biodiversity. We hope this initiative can be repeated with other endangered species in the future!