Saving the Seahorses

Carol Schmarr
Carol Schmarr

KEAHOLE, Hawaii (KHNL) -- They're one of the most magical and enchanting creatures of the animal kingdom: seahorses. And they're on the brink of extinction. But a Keahole couple is doing something about it. We tour the country's only seahorse farm.

When was the last time you saw a seahorse in the ocean? Probably never. But not if Carol Schmarr can help it. Ten years ago, she and her husband opened Ocean Rider Incorporated, a seahorse farm, with their life savings.

"The seahorse is becoming extinct because of global warming, over fishing, pollution, and the medicine and pet trades," said Schmarr.  "We started the seahorse farm in order to save the seahorse from extinction. Our idea was to domesticate the seahorse, make it a friendly happy pet, that survives for a long time in people's home aquariums."

She says they've singlehandedly reduced the US demand for seahorses as pets by 95%.

"The wild seahorse dies within a couple months of being caught and taken out of the wild," said Schmarr.  "The pet trade used to consume almost a million seahorses a year because the seahorses would keep dying."

Our NOAA underwater camera takes us up close to the seahorses.

"Scientists believe the seahorse is an indicator species, and when it begins to disappear like it has, it's an indicator our resources have collapsed to the point of no return," said Schmarr. "Today the seahorse is an endangered species. It is on the edge of extinction, so we have to be very concerned about the condition of our oceans."

The Schmarrs now offer tours. You can see the entire life cycle. These are hatchlings. But the highlight of the tour is the chance to hold a seahorse. The farm's owners hope you fall in love with the seahorse, and leave, inspired to protect the ocean they live in. A magical moment with a seahorse that may one day save the species.

There is no state law protecting seahorses. Ocean Rider is working with Representative Glenn Wakai to craft a bill to change that. Wakai says he'll introduce it next session.

Ocean Rider (808) 329-6840