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Banca March and Palma Aquarium Foundation join forces to protect seahorses in the Mediterranean Sea

03 August 2023 Category: Sustainability

On 3 August 2023, the official presentation of the "Cavallets de mar balears" project took place in the Ocean Room of Palma Aquarium, with Debora Morrison, Director of the Palma Aquarium Foundation; Joan Rams, General Manager of Palma Aquarium and President of the Palma Aquarium Foundation; and Sonia Colino, Director of the People, Brand and Sustainability unit at Banca March. There was also a guided tour of the seahorse facilities created for this project.

In response to the alarming decline of seahorse populations in the Mediterranean, the Palma Aquarium Foundation and Banca March have joined forces in a strategic alliance to carry out the "Cavallets de mar balears" project. This initiative seeks to facilitate the reproduction and survival of these vulnerable animals in a controlled artificial environment and subsequently reintroduce them into their natural habitat.

Seahorses are true indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. In recent decades, populations of the common seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) in the Mediterranean have declined by 25-30%. These creatures, due to their fragility and vulnerability, face various human-induced threats, such as loss and degradation of habitat, trawling, pollution and seabed disturbance.

In March 2022, the "Cavallets de mar balears" project was born, thanks to a collaboration between the Palma Aquarium Foundation and Banca March. With a planned duration of two years, this initiative has been financed by a part of the annual management fee of the sustainable Mediterranean Fund, managed by March Asset Management.

According to Sonia Colino, "Sustainability is a commitment integrated into our strategic objective of Shared Growth, the basis of our century-old philosophy. “At Banca March, we believe that it is time to return to the sea everything it gives to us, and we trust that our donation will help to improve marine ecosystems. The solidarity component of the Mediterranean Fund, donating 10% of its management fee to projects such as ‘Cavallets de mar balears’, allows us to undertake initiatives for the recovery of Mediterranean fauna. This is a perfect example of the spirit that inspires our commitment to management that contributes to an inclusive and sustainable economic model that is profitable at the same time."

The main goal of the project is to breed a new generation of seahorses of reproductive age to strengthen the existing populations and to enable their numbers to increase in a natural way. For this purpose, a pair of common seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus) and a pair of Mediterranean seahorses (Hippocampus guttulatus) have been selected.

Debora Morrison explains, "Once reproduction is achieved, the rearing and feeding of the hatchlings begins, which is a critical and challenging stage. Seahorse hatchlings are approximately one centimetre in length. Due to their small size and weight, they require special care. Aquarium design and set-up, including aspects such as temperature, light, filtration and water circulation, are of vital importance to ensure success at this stage."

The hatchlings consume different types of plankton (artemia, mysis, microalgae, rotifers, copepods, etc.) to provide them with the nutrients necessary for their development. To produce this live food, a plankton production laboratory has been specifically created at Palma Aquarium's facilities. When the young seahorses are ready to survive in their environment, they will be reintroduced to try to strengthen the existing population and achieve a population size large enough to allow the species to increase its natural populations.

According to Joan Rams, "This joint effort will allow not only the recovery of seahorses in the Mediterranean, but it will lay the foundations for future initiatives that can be replicated in the protection of other endangered species."

Banca March reaffirms its commitment to sustainability, the conservation of marine biodiversity and the protection of the environment through this partnership with the Palma Aquarium Foundation.

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