The heist must have required some planning: pirating away a six-foot-tall statue bolted onto a concrete base in one of the busiest locations in Calvert County.

But members of the Seahorses by the Bay Committee were hardly impressed with the ingenuity of the thieves who early Friday stole the statue -- designed as part of a countywide public art project by Calvert Middle School students -- from in front of Adam's Ribs restaurant on Route 2/4 in Prince Frederick.

"It's just so stupid . . . somebody stealing children's art," said Stacey Hann-Ruff, a committee member and director of Annmarie Garden in Solomons.

The theft of the fiberglass statue is being investigated by the Calvert County Sheriff's Office. The thieves walked away with the seahorse even though it was anchored to a cement slab, Hann-Ruff said.

"They had to have some type of tools," Hann-Ruff speculated this week. "To wrench one off the base would seem to be a two-person job."

The theft of the seahorse casts a pall on what has been an uplifting project for Calvert students. As part of the county's 350th anniversary celebration this year, organizers of the statue project wanted to come up with something that would bring attention to seahorses, a threatened species in the Chesapeake Bay, Hann-Ruff said.

"We wanted to take it one step further than your typical public art project," Hann-Ruff said.

The statues -- the form designed by staff members at the Calvert Marine Museum -- were distributed to 25 public and private schools in the county. At each school, students developed a plan for decorating the seahorses. The students at Calvert Middle School christened their work "Starfish," painting it in colors inspired by Vincent van Gogh's painting, "Starry Night."

"It looks like that -- all blues and yellows," Hann-Ruff said.

Beginning in May, the 25 seahorses were put on display throughout the county. Then on Friday, the committee received a call from someone who was taking a tour of all 25 statues.

"There's a lady who called and said, "I can't find 'Starfish,' " Hann-Ruff said.

The statue was last seen Friday morning by an employee at the restaurant, which suggests it was stolen in daylight, Hann-Ruff said.

"It seems pretty bold to go up to that thing in the middle of the day," she said.

The committee, which had planned to auction "Starfish" this fall with the other seahorses to raise money to support children's arts programs, is asking the public for information that could lead to the return of the missing statue.

"Somebody must have seen a vehicle driving down Route 4 with a seahorse in the back of it," Hann-Ruff said.

Anyone with information about the missing seahorse is asked to call the sheriff's office at 410-535-2800 or 301-855-1194.

"Starfish," the student-crafted sculpture reported stolen Friday, was in front of the Adam's Ribs restaurant in Prince Frederick.