Breeding Sea Horses

An ongoing project to breed sea horses in captivity at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) aquaculture lab, Dona Paula, Goa has triggered interest for more indepth research into the standardisation of methods for rearing of the peculiar shaped and lesser known fish species. “We are looking at many angles, especially to see how the sea horses born in the lab adapt to habitats near Goa’s shores,” R A Sreepada, scientist, NIO said. Goa’s forest department has been already approached for permission to collect seahorses for the purpose of scientific research. Sea horses are included in schedule one of Wildlife Act 1972, as target fishing to cater to demand for medicinal purpose and use in aquariums has endangered the species. After 32 pairs of sea horses were brought from Ratnagiri, they were reared in fibre reinforced plastic tanks. They took some time to find their mates and procreate. Initially, two pairs delivered 320 babies on August 29, 2008. Later, around 1,500 babies have been delivered. The National Institute of Oceanography now plans to release the month-old babies in cages to be anchored near mangroves and sea grass habitats. “Very shortly, we will tag and colour them with fluoroscent dye to monitor them closely in habitats being identified,” Sreepada said. Sea horses are known for their remarkable monogamous mating behaviour. The 300-odd babies, with a size of barely 8-mm have survived the more critical pelagic stage. When they reach the settlement stage, they are able to attach to any objects instead of drifting in the water. The team comprising also Hrishikesh Pawar, Sushant Sayane and A Murugan had some anxious moments during the early stages. “We had to change the water every four hours and care for them like babies,” Pawar said. Unlike other fish, a seahorse delivers anywhere between a few hundreds to a thousand babies. It takes about a year for them to grow into adults. It is the father who incubates the babies in his pouch and the gestation period is about 12 to 15 days. The size of an adult is around 15 to 20 mm. Encouraged by the better survival rate, the scientists want to study how sea horses released in natural habitats from lab conditions behave. “We also want to find out where they go after monsoon, as they come nearer to the coast during monsoon,” Sreepada said. Devendra Dalai, IFS, deputy conservator of forest, wildlife and eco-tourism confirmed that the National Institute of Oceanography’s request is being considered. “We have received the NIO’s application and we are looking into it,” Dalai said. The floating cages will be anchored near mangroves and sea grass habitats. “Lot of research is still to be done and we want to observe their growth and development in differing conditions,” Sreepada concluded.

No comments: