By: Patricia Kotovich, TG Magazine youth journalist

Everyone knows that seahorses are one of the world's many endangered species. But, Dr. Amanda Vincent, a professor in conservation biology at McGill University says that this is a problem more directly related to overpopulation that most people often assume.

Seahorses are being heavily exploited all over the world. Thirty six countries, including Canada, trade seahorses. They are used for tourist souvenirs, aquatic pets and medicines, both in western and traditional Chinese practices. In China, because their population chart is "blowing through the roof," the demand for seahorses is even greater.

As a biologist, Dr. Vincent is working to preserve seahorses and educate people about their value. She works with a project in the central Philippines in the village of Hanumon where 20 percent of households depend on seahorses for food and money. Some household's gain more than half their economic income through seahorses. Dr. Vincent says that it has now come to the point where the demand for these beautiful sea creatures is greater than the production.

Fishing sanctuaries that forbid all fishing in certain areas are being enforced here. Small male sea horses are held until they give birth, for it is the male that gets pregnant among sea horses. And only after they have reproduced, will they be sold.

Philoppino officials have also taken the "educate the youth" approach to the dilemma. They offer high school students scholarships on the condition that they work with biologists every weekend on various seahorse conservation programs. They also teach their young people alternative methods on dealing with sea horses.

Dr. Vincent says that all these efforts may be irrelevant if the overpopulation situation does not improve. Many Philippino families have seven to eleven children. The average family has four. This means that the next generation will be approximatly double the amount of people, which inturn, leads to double the amount of resources they will consume.

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