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Seahorses born under captivity at NIO
Researchers at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa has been successful in breeding the Indian seahorse species,
commonly known as Yellow seahorse or Spotted seahorse under captivity. Juvenile seahorses collected from the wild were grown to maturity, form pair bonding, mate, complete gestation and spawning under captive conditions through manipulation of feed and environmental conditions. The project is being funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India. Two male seahorses delivered 320 numbers of new born juveniles in the early morning hours of 29th August, 2008. Both the daddies who delivered and the babies are being taken care at the Aquaculture Laboratory- the Fraternity Home. Next 15 days are very critical for their survival since they shift from pelagic phase to the settlement phase. Seahorses are fascinating group and remarkable group of fishes with their unusual body shape and their biology, with males incubating the fertilized eggs in a brood pouch. They belong to the family, Syngnathidae. They inhabit many ecologically sensitive aquatic habitats, including coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves and estuaries, with most species in the Indo-Pacific and western Atlantic region. Extraordinary myths surround them. Ironically, it is their very popularity that places them in danger, as they are sought in large numbers for use in traditional medicine, aquarium fish and curios (souvenirs). It has been conservatively estimated that at least 20 million seahorses (~ 56 m tonnes) are being caught annually for the traditional medicine market. In addition, more than one million live sea horses are caught for aquarium trade, mostly destined for sale in North America, India was contributing to about 30% of global seahorse trade until 2001 and now all species of seahorses have been brought under the schedule I of the Wild Life Act, 1972 to prohibit exploitation. As per the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), all species of seahorses have been placed under Appendix II which states that captive breeding could be undertaken for stock enhancement programme and aquaculture purposes. With this success of breeding of seahorses , under captivity, the team of researchers lead by Shri R A Sreepada are confident that standardization of hatchery rearing and mass culture of seahorses will helpful in their conservation, of reproduction meeting ever increasing demand in traditional medicine and marine aquarium trade. In addition, development of such technology will provide an alternate livelihood or supplementary income to the fisherfolk/self-help group (SHGs) in the coastal belt of India.
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