The Indian Ocean - coastal waters
The tropical Indian Ocean is home to the Spice Islands. Characterised by beautiful sandy beaches, fringing coral reefs and coastal mangrove forests, this is a vibrant nursery area for marine life, such as whale sharks, crabs, seahorses and a great variety of fish. The coastal areas are where humans have the most direct impact on the ocean's resources.
Seahorses, off Mafia Island
Sea horses are found in the shallow mangrove lagoons around Mafia Island. They are highly sought after in traditional eastern medicine and it's estimated that 250,000 sea horses were exported from Tanzanian waters in just one year.
The main seahorse claim to fame is that the males become pregnant. They are small (16.4 cm is the largest recorded in these waters) and well camouflaged by the small organisms that grow on them. They coil their tails around the vegetation amongst which they take refuge. Relatively little is still known about the sea horses that inhabit these waters, but scientists at Project Seahorse are monitoring populations here and globally. Any sea horse found and measured for study is returned to their original location as quickly as possible in order to reunite the seahorse with its mate and cause minimum distress.
|Importance:||Many seahorses are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN Red List. Studying sea horses will enable scientists to monitor the impact of the global medicinal trade and assess their conservation needs.|
|Dive category:||Mafia Island is a Marine Park and numerous companies offer opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving.|
|Access:||Seahorses are difficult to find. These fragile creatures should not be disturbed or moved.|