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Short-snouted seahorses breed in the River Thames

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Fifty years ago the River Thames was considered biologically dead, butwater

Short-snouted seahorse (Callie Jones)

quality has improved vastly since then. A recent count showedthat there are now 120 species of fish in the river, including redmullet, anchovies, bass and the occasional salmon. The Wildlife andCountryside Act of 1981 contributed to the protection of thesecreatures by making it illegal to kill or capture them.

Trout were released into the River Wandle, a tributary of the Thames, afew years back. Horatio Nelson would be pleased. It was one of hisfavourite fishing spots 200 years ago.

The past couple of years have seen a few isolated records ofseahorses in the Thames estuary but recently the Zoological Society ofLondon announced the discovery of a breeding population ofshort-snouted seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus),which are normally found in shallow muddy waters, beds of seagrass andestuaries in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The discovery was keptsecret for 18 months until the Act could be amended to protect them aswell.

Seahorses are used in traditional Chinese medicine, mainly as anaphrodisiac. Large, pale, smooth types are preferred but as most aresold in prepackaged form nowadays the exact species is often impossibleto recognise. It is thought that well over 25 million seahorses arecaught worldwide for this purpose each year, many taken illegally.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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