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This summer, a female spiny seahorse was seen in Studland Bay. No seahorse has been spotted in this area for the past three years. The Seahorse Trust named it Hope.
British coastline is home to two species of seahorses – the short-snouted and spiny or long-snouted seahorse. Since 2008, both species have been declared protected under the Wildlife And Countryside Act 1981. This means that taking, injuring or killing spiny and short snouted seahorses are prohibited.
The sighting of Hope is an exciting news for conservationists, especially since the last time a seahorse has been spotted was in 2015. In 2008, around 40 were recorded on the study site at Studland. However, for the past three years, not a single one was seen in this place. Their 3-year absence even prompted the Seahorse Trust to make a pronouncement that seahorses may soon be locally extinct in the bay.
While the seahorse is believed to be just be passing through and not settling in the area, her sighting gives experts hope about the future of these creatures in the area. Moreover, it provides them with a better understanding as to why seahorses are no longer found at the bay. Destruction of the seagrass bed (which serves as seahorse habitat) due to mooring and anchoring is said to be the primary culprit in the decline of the population of long-snouted seahorses in Studland Bay.
Efforts to make the bay conducive for seahorses once again are underway – one of which is the suggestion to use eco-friendly moorings. The Royal Yachting Association is also helping in spreading awareness amongst its members, informing them of the need to be careful around seagrass meadows.
There is also the proposal to turn the area into a Marine Conservation Zone. However, this initiative hasn’t been successful yet. Experts believe that giving Studland this designation is tremendously going to aid in preserving the seagrass beds and in return, it would help improve the population of seahorses in the area.
Image Attribution: By Nhobgood Nick Hobgood (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHippocampus_hystrix_(Spiny_seahorse)_yellow.jpg