So you’ve found a seahorse, and you want to keep it. Or maybe you stumbled across one washed ashore, and are unsure what to do next. This question comes up from time to time. It’s not frequent, but it does happen enough that I wanted to provide some guidance.
The best thing to do is to release the seahorse back where you found it, if at all possible. The sooner you can do this, the better off the seahorse will be. This is especially true for those found washed up on the beach, as can happen from time to time due to seahorses’ poor swimming abilities.
If there is a lot of turbulent water and you fear that the seahorse might be washed ashore again, placing it in a container of seawater and carrying it to a calm or sheltered area is going to be ideal. Another possibility is finding a pier where the water is deeper. Even if the water there is turbulent, this should be safe. By releasing in deeper water, you are looking to avoid waves tossing the seahorse against the sea floor. Once released, the seahorse can then sort out finding its way to safety.
Can I Keep It?
This is not a simple question and there is no simple answer. You’ll need to research the laws of your country and state before even considering the possibility of keeping it. In the US, laws regarding catching wild seahorses varies from state to state. In the UK and Australia, this is illegal, full stop. In the US, Florida is probably the most popular place for seahorses and humans to cross paths. At the time of this writing, to keep seahorses in Florida you need a fishing license and you need to follow the special rules set aside for collecting marine ornamentals which has additional restrictions for seahorses. (myfwc.com – Florida Regulations)
You will then need to consider you’re comfortable with the ethics of keeping a wild seahorse. There are moral and conservation-based dilemmas when taking seahorses from the wild. This is true with any animal, but seahorses offer some additional concerns. Their populations are in decline in some parts of the world. And there are better alternatives, namely, seahorses that have been bred and raised in captivity. Those seahorses are more suitable to life in an aquarium.
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