Long Beach Seahorse Whisperer

LONG BEACH – As sea currents are unpredictable; warm water can move to areas not common and colder water will take the place it once was. Although it may seem only like a quick surprise to beachgoers, these events can lead oceanic animals, like the seahorse, to areas they’re not local to.

Retired teacher, Roger Hanson, created a sanctuary for Pacific seahorses – which are vulnerable to endangerment from traditional medicine, unsustainable fishing, and trade after being dried – that have wandered up to the Long Beach coast back in 2016 and has been protecting them ever since. The small group of Pacific seahorses stayed in the area, or sanctuary, that Hanson had originally built them of twigs and brush. This is beneficial as Pacific seahorses are just one of the numerous seahorse species that are at risk of being endangered.

“I went 15 feet below the littoral zone and put sticks in the bottom of the ocean, palm fronts, and pine branches and they actually moved down there and they liked it,” Hanson said.

Hanson built the sanctuary for seahorses after he had found them swimming around shallower waters where danger from human interaction is more common. Though Hanson wanted to do more than just build a sanctuary for the seahorses that he had found. Ever since then, he has visited the seahorses almost every day; diving at 3 a.m. for a couple of hours at a time and logging the seahorses that he’s seen, the weather, and how long he spent underwater.

“I wonder who’s studying who sometimes,” Hanson laughs.

On June 30h, Hanson closed out his 5-year study of the Pacific seahorses that have stayed in the sanctuary that he built in 2016. Seeing the first seahorse he’s found, Daphne, was a euphoric event for him causing Hanson to smile enthusiastically. However, he isn’t done with seahorses. 

“You don’t just stop something after you’ve been doing it for 5 years.”

Hanson has a children’s book based around Daphne, DC Street, and the other seahorses planned to be published in time, as well as hopes to have his work academically published. Along with that, he plans on looking for more Pacific seahorses along the Long Beach coast. From his work with the Pacific seahorses, others around the world are building sustainable sanctuaries as he did.

“The best interest in people protecting wildlife is to do as little harm as possible,” Curator of Fish and Invertebrates at the Aquarium of The Pacific, Nate Jaros, said when discussing the protection of seahorses.

The best way that the community can help seahorses and ocean life in general, is to be responsible when going out. That individuals should pick up their trash, boaters shouldn’t anchor in eelgrass beds, and being aware overall.

“Intervening in wildlife is just something that should be done cautiously and usually involves scientific study,” Jaros said.

So despite the Pacific Seahorse being vulnerable to endangerment, there are ways that one can protect them – and other sea life – by being aware of their surroundings along with what they do in those surroundings. Roger Hanson has been the exception with protecting seahorses, however, community members of Long Beach (and all over the world) are able to help the seahorse population by participating in sustainable practices within the wild, traditional medical beliefs, and ornamental items.


Jess Gutierrez