The Seahorses of Ria Formosa – “Riding” to Extinction

Lisbon, July 31, 2019 – On Thursday, August 1, at 11.30 am at Portas do Mar Pier ( Faro), the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the Oceano Azul Foundation launched the ‘Riding to Extinction’ campaign to raise public awareness of the need to protect the Ria Formosa seahorses.

Ria Formosa once had the largest community of seahorses in the world, with populations of both species of seahorses reaching millions of individuals. Only two decades after this discovery, 90% of seahorses have disappeared.

According to Emanuel Gonçalves, administrator of the Oceano Azul Foundation, “In 2018, we asked a researcher at the University of Algarve, Miguel Correia, to conduct a census, as there were indications that the populations of Ria Formosa were being depleated and the last surveys had been taken in 2012. In just six years, 600,000 seahorses have disappeared! If the identified pressure factors are not eliminated within a very short period of time, the seahorses are at risk of not having a minimum number that allows them to recover and they will go extinct in the Ria Formosa.”

“Both species in Portugal are particularly vulnerable to pressure factors (illegal fishing, noise pollution, and alteration or destruction of their preferred habitat, namely seagrass meadows areas), which affect them directly or indirectly because they are sedentary and fragile fish. Thus, the Regional Directorate of the Algarve for the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests has recognized the critical importance of executing an action plan, developed in partnership with regional and national entities, aiming at the preservation of these species,” says Joaquim Castelão Rodrigues, Regional Director.

This campaign aims to raise public awareness and point out three concrete solutions as a call to action: Do not catch or touch seahorses, anchor recreational boats with caution avoiding seagrass areas and avoid making noise with boats outside the shipping channels.