by Pamela S. Turner
published by Houghton Mifflin
Seahorses, some of the ocean’s most charming fish, are in trouble. In the past twenty years their populations has declined. They are threatened by overfishing, pollution and climate change. In Handumon in the Philippines, villagers and conservationists have joined to protect the seahorse and the coral reefs where they live. Amanda Vincent and Heather Koldewey, founders of Project Seahorse, work with Filipino colleagues and local fishers like “Digoy” Paden to protect seahorses and the livelihood of local fishing families. Through their efforts the Handumon Marine Protected Area is now a model “underwater park” where marine life is safe from fishing.
I really liked Turner's last book for the Scientists in the Field series, The Frog Scientist, and fell in love with the leafy seadragons at the Shedd Aquarium more than 10 years ago; so I was excited to read this one.
Turner does a good job of explaining that, despite their unusual appearance, seahorses are fish. She a really good job of explaining how male seahorses give birth and how this unusual reproductive strategy came to be. What she does a fantastic job of is explaining the integral role that seahorses play in life on earth, and why they are worth conserving.
She balances coverage of the seahorses and their underwater environment with the local people who feed their families and make a living through fishing. The book shows that Project Seahorse is making an impact because of cooperation between scientists and locals.
The photographs are fantastic and the book design is attractive. However, I couldn't help being distracted by the white borders, tilted angles and drop shadows, which reminded me of iPhoto. The impressive index includes page numbers for all the photographs and captions, and you can look up each seahorse species that appears in the book.
Other materials include a guide on how to help seahorses (courtesy of Project Seahorse), a glossary, and a list of resources that includes, videos, websites and books. I was disappointed to see that the only books listed are other titles from the same series about the ocean. Where are more books about seahorses? I would have also liked to see a list of aquariums (like Shedd) where you can see seahorses up close.
My impression is that this is yet another very strong title in the Scientists in the Field series, but not the best.