Introduction To Neil Garrick Maidment
It is an honour to introduce our latest guest blogger, Neil Garrick-Maidment – Executive Director of the Seahorse Trust.
I have worked occasionally with Neil since the mid-2000s and knew of him long before then as a Dr. Dolittle of seahorses, although it was success with other species that led him into this work. Neil has worked tirelessly and effectively to discover more about seahorses and to raise awareness about the wholesale destruction of their vulnerable world, as well as empowering people to actually do something to help halt their decline.
It was Neil’s work that made me understand that seahorses, two species, are resident in British waters and that they are not just rare and unfortunate vagrants or claimed for Britain because they are found in the English Channel.
Neil established the British Seahorse Survey in 1994 and the National Seahorse Database, which became the World Seahorse Database and Survey. This is now the longest running continuous survey of its kind in the world. The results of which led to the British seahorses being protected in 2008. The World Seahorse survey now covers over 30 countries and has in excess of 3,000 sightings. I am in awe of this project.
Don’t let the Seahorse go the way of the Dodo
The Dodo is that amazingly iconic species that mankind managed to make extinct in 1662, this 23kg, odd looking bird was too trusting of mankind and his intentions and would just stand there, waiting to be picked up, or clubbed over the head to feed the mariners who visited their home in Mauritius. Imagine chasing down and killing the very last of the species, you would imagine that this would make mankind reconsider its approach to the natural world but our recent history is littered with the ‘Last of….’, such as Quagga, Passenger Pigeons, the Giant Moa, West African Black Rhino, Northern White Rhino (only 2 females left) Giant Tortoises (Lonesome George died a couple of years ago as the last of his species), Yangtze River Dolphins (a few years ago) to name a very small handful of a very, very long list.
A quick google search will see a list of species (plant and animal) as long as your arm that have become extinct in this, and the last century and the speed of extinctions is getting faster. Every day at least one species goes extinct somewhere on the planet; that is such a sobering thought and it is not just in the tropics it is here and it is now. Constantly we read, numbers of certain species are down by 70, 80 or 90 plus percent; these figures are printed so frequently we have become immune to them now and probably do not realise the meaning behind the statistics.
Other species are on the edge of extinction and are only just hanging on by their beaks or claws, some like the Spix’s macaw and many others are only in captivity and still we persecute them by putting pressure on their habitat, so they can never go back to the wild, we are completely oblivious as a species of primate to the interconnectedness of nature.
When are we are going to realise that every brick we take out of the wall, makes us one step closer to the wall collapsing (on our heads) and crucially we are a big part of that wall. Without nature mankind CANNOT survive, it is as simple as that; we are on the rapid path to extinction ourselves but we are blinded by our arrogance and delusions of self-importance to see it.
The processes of nature give us a functioning planet and give us the very water and air that we and so much else is reliant on, it is as basic and simple as that.
We cannot for the good of the planet let this continue,
– we need to make a stand, we need to start rebuilding that wall, time is running out very rapidly. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the seal clubbing, whaling, the ozone layer and acid rain were the topics of the day (this has now been overtaken by global warming). Overall we did something about it but there is still room for improvement, we redesigned fridges and other machines so they would not release the harmful CFC’s and slowly the ozone hole is healing itself. We got whaling banned (except under the delusion of scientific whaling), we are not supposed to club seals anymore (and yet they do). This is really good positive news but this is a small change in a much bigger problem, we cannot sit back and pat ourselves on our backs; we are all responsible and so we should all do something about it.
Many people are saying we are now in the third age of extinction and I cannot find a reason to argue against this BUT I am the eternal optimist and strongly believe that we can turn this around by protecting whole, large, areas, captive breeding of species, legally enforcing protection and making sure self-centred people do not get their way.
There are so many areas and species on the planet that need help and the main way we can do this is through large scale habitat protection (not token gestures), joining national parks up into super parks and stop putting finance before the nature world. So in 2020 push for large areas of protection, push for rewilding our countries, push to stop money overruling common sense and crucially push for self-centred, self-interested people to be side-lined in favour of protecting the natural world. It is not there just to look at; it is the life and lungs, food basket and water course of our planet and without it, we do not exist and please do not let the seahorses and so many other species go the way of the Dodo just because of greedy people.
The Seahorse Trust
I set up The Seahorse Trust in 2000 to carry on the work I started 44 years ago and during that time; I have bred 22 species of seahorse designed two public aquariums (including the National Marine aquarium in Plymouth) and a zoo. I have educated, taught, written articles, books and features for journals and yet despite all this done by me and so many others our planet is in a worse state now than it was 44 years ago, why?
The Seahorse Trust is dedicated to the conservation of the natural world and in using seahorses to tell the story of what is happening to ours, through the eyes of one species, seahorses.
Seahorses are facing a very uncertain future due to habitat loss, and particularly being fished for the curio and medicine trades, where it is estimated over 150 million per annum are taken for scientifically, unproven medicine and to be made in curios that sell for a few pence.
The work of the Seahorse Trust
Here at the trust we run a very successful Facebook page to share ideas and thoughts but crucially to bring people together on an equal basis to help our natural world and in particular seahorses.
The trust conducts surveys in the wild and helps others around the world to set up and conduct surveys. These surveys are at the basis of our knowledge about seahorses and they help us generate much needed data so that we can work with others to protect and conserve not just the seahorses but the habitat they live in or the future.
We work with at least 7 governments and are official advisors to the UK government on seahorses. We also work with universities, students, and environment groups, other charities and everyone that has an interest, and many that don’t. By working in equal partnership we can and do make a difference and crucially we share ideas with others.
The curio and medicine Trades are devastating seahorse numbers to approximately 150 million per year and this is not sustainable and they will go the way of the Dodo in 20 to 25 years unless we work together to make difference, and in turn this will help so many other species.
By working with online companies such as Facebook, Amazon, EBay and so many others we are slowly closing the places where seahorses can be sold, which in turn will slow the trade and we hope reduce the need for the species to be fished.
Our online campaigns are designed to make people aware but not just those wanting to protect seahorses but also those that want to sell seahorses; if we can stop online selling this will reduce the trade by millions.
Environmental campaigning and conservation go hand in hand and when we have a success like getting Studland Bay in Dorset (and helping getting other sites protected) made into a Marine Conservation Zone (2019) it is team work. We work with others to make this happen and this equal basis is the way forward in conservation.
Volunteers are the absolute backbone of our charity which is in its 20th year now, without them we could not achieve anything. Whether they are volunteer divers, researchers, campaigners, fund raisers or part of our illegal trade team; they are The Seahorse Trust and we are so grateful for their time and importantly energy when things are dire in the natural world.
Without the volunteers, without the enthusiasm, without caring, then seahorses will go the way of the Dodo and we must avoid this at all costs. A world without seahorses, seagrass and all the other amazing species that make up our world means we as a species will go extinct;’ It is as simple as that.
Neil Garrick Maidment
Here at Lifeforms Art we are delighted that 10% of the profits from the sale of our sea horse products goes to the Seahorse Trust to help them to continue with their amazing work. You can find links to them below.
- Seahorse T-shirt
- Children’s Seahorse T-shirt
- Seahorse Story Book
- Spiny Seahorse Pocket Notebook
- Short Snouted Seahorse Pocket Notebook
- Seahorse Pocket Notebook Gift Set
- Seahorse Pocket Notebook
- Pipefish and Seahorse Pocket Notebook