Protection sought for Fla. sea horses

Nov. 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A U.S. environmental group says it wants federal protection for a Florida species of sea horse threatened by coastal development and commercial fishing.

The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the federal government to make the inch-long dwarf sea horse the first sea horse on the endangered species list, the South Florida Sen Sentinel reported Thursday.

The species has been at risk from the BP oil spill, collection for the aquarium trade, demand from China as an ingredient in traditional medicines and destruction of its sea grass habitat, the group said.

"Why should we protect them? Sea horses are incredibly cute, for starters," Tierra Curry, a conservation biologist with the center, said. "I think people are just naturally drawn to them. They're a symbol of clean oceans and beaches and vacations and happy times with family."

The National Marine Fisheries Service said it is reviewing the 68-page petition and expects to make a preliminary decision by the end of the year.

Sea horses are caught primarily in Florida and Texas, agency biologist Bob Hoffman noted, but he said it was too soon to say whether they could qualify as endangered.

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