Looking for a chance to feel the wonder at Shedd? Get excited, because Shedd’s Stingray Touch experience opened today, Friday, May 23!

You can see Shedd’s cownose rays flocking like birds—wings spread—or the camouflaged yellow rays, burrowing in the sand below the warm 78-degree water of the Stingray Touch pool. It’s a great opportunity to see and feel these remarkably gentle creatures of the tropics.

Unfortunately, stingrays and other marine life are often at risk to some fishing methods around the world. Stingrays, sharks, sponges and corals, among many other marine animals, are caught unintentionally in nets and on hooks and lines. Animals that are slow to mature, are long-lived, or reproduce infrequently are especially vulnerable to fishing pressure and habitat loss. Stingrays and seahorses—another celebrated group of animals in Shedd’s care, with their curling tails and whimsical colors—are notorious for showing up in the bottom of shrimp trawls worldwide.

 Dr. Tse-Lynn Loh

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr. Tse-Lynn Loh (above, right), works to monitor and protect seahorses in Southeast Asia in collaboration with local governments and research agencies. She recently spent six weeks traveling through the central and south coasts of Vietnam, to investigate seahorse distribution and teach workshops on surveying seahorse populations. “It wasn’t that easy to find seahorses in the water; most of our sightings came from one island in south Vietnam. But when we checked out trawling boats, we would almost always find seahorses caught as bycatch, simply because these trawlers cover such a large area,” she reflected. “However, many of the fishers told us that seahorse numbers have declined over the past decade, probably from a combination of habitat damage from bottom trawling and overfishing.”

You can help protect sea horses and other marine life simply by avoiding bottom trawled shrimp. Choose “best choices” from Shedd’s Right Bite sustainable seafood wallet guide and help reduce problems like bycatch. You can also get involved by joining Project Seahorse’s citizen science program, www.iSeahorse.org, and Shedd’s conservation community.  Anyone who sees a seahorse in the wild can log the sighting on iSeahorse, which Dr. Loh says is a very useful way to quickly obtain information on wild populations of seahorses around the world and inform measures to protect them from fishing pressures and habitat degradation.