Seahorse Trust Calls For Greater Protections Once Restrictions Lifted

spiny seahorses studland title

Spiny seahorses have made an amazing recovery during the Covid-19 shutdown (Photo: Susana_Martins/Shutterstock)

The Spiny Seahorse, an endangered species found around the southern coast of Great Britain, appears to have made a remarkable recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, according to the Seahorse Trust.

During a dive at Studland Bay, a marine protected zone off the coast of Dorset, 16 individual members of the species Hippocampus guttulatus – technically the 'long-snouted seahorse' but known in the UK as the spiny seahorse – were spotted, the largest number recorded during a single dive since 2008. Several males carrying clutches of eggs were among the animals observed, and at least one juvenile born this year was counted.

It is thought that the absence of marine activity brought about by Covid-19 restrictions has led to the resurgence of the seahorse population, with less boat noise, anchor use and other watersports activities allowing Studland Bay to recover. 

'We have seen so many seahorses because the food chain has recovered, giving seahorses plenty of food to eat, and crucially, somewhere to hide,' said Neil Garrick-Maidment, founder of the Seahorse Trust. 'The seagrass has started to repair itself, and the spiny seahorses have taken advantage of this.'

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Seagrass meadows are diverse and important marine habitats (Photo: Shutterstock)

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The spiny seahorse and the closely related short-snouted seahorse were granted protected status in 2008 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and Studland Bay named as a British Marine Conservation Zone in 2019. Mr Garrick-Maidment is calling on the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and Natural England to more rigorously enforce the protections once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and perhaps implement other measures such as more environmentally friendly moorings.

'We do not want boats and divers banned, but the seahorses and seagrass do need their legal protection enforced,' said Garrick-Maidment. 'We have a unique opportunity to help nature and to restore the balance of our planet. We must grab this with both hands, for the seagrass, for the sea, for humanity and crucially for these incredible seahorses.'

'We are firmly committed to protecting our precious habitats and wildlife and we are already consulting on updated conservation advice for the Studland Bay Marine Conservation Zone,' said Matt Heard, Natural England area manager for Wessex. 'We continue to work with the MMO and local groups to ensure the Marine Conservation Zone and its special wildlife are well managed, conserved and protected so that they can be enjoyed sustainably for generations to come.'

For more about the UK's seahorses or to make a donation towards their protection, visit www.theseahorsetrust.org

 

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