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The plan to drill an exploratory well off the coast of Studland Bay threatens a valuable colony of seahorse species.
Studland Bay is home to two species of seahorses, the spiny or long-snouted and the short-snouted seahorse. It is also the only place in the UK where both seahorse species breed.
These marine creatures are protected species in the UK. As such, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, it is illegal to take, injure or kill them. However, despite their protected status, the number of seahorses continues to drop. Conservationists point to habitat destruction due to pollution and human activities as the reason for their declining population.
In 2008, 40 spiny seahorses were recorded in the area. However, last year, only a total of 14 short-snouted and spiny seahorses were seen in the area.
In 2016, the Seahorse Trust expressed its fear that the spiny seahorse could soon be extinct at Studland Bay. This announcement was made after another year of not seeing any spiny seahorse in the area. But just last year, a female long-snouted seahorse was spotted at Studland Bay.
The recent sighting sparked hope amongst seahorse conservation groups. However, with the plan to drill at a valuable section of seabed for seahorses, they worry about the future of seahorses in the area. They are also concerned about its possible effects on other animals living on the bay such as the endangered undulate rays, sandeels and cods.
If the plan pushes through, the vibration and noise from the drilling can disturb organisms and interfere with their activities. Conservationists also say that the drilling can pollute the marine environment and endanger the animals that live around it. Drill cuttings may pile up and contaminate the waters. This can negatively impact the breeding spots of fish as well as seabed communities. Worst, an oil spill may occur and annihilate organisms in the area.
According to conservationists, the risk involved is just too high which is why they are calling on the government to block the plan. Ever since the news broke out, more people, including journalists and scientists, have joined the campaign to prevent the oil drilling from pushing through.
Photo by prilfish