National Trust Purbeck Wildlife

Seahorse survival


seahorse1The latest newsletter from the Seahorse Trust (Spring 2014) reports the disappointing news that only 4 spiny seahorses were recorded at Studland’s South Beach compared to around 40 in 2008. There may be several reasons for this including the impact of recreational boat use in the area. A new leaflet produced by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) gives advice on anchoring on seagrass meadows and aims to change boat owner’s actions when on sensitive sites like Studland and other seagrass beds in the UK.
The newsletter also reports on the successful rescue of a stranded seahorse in Guernsey. This reminded me of a similar event here. A school group came across an immature seahorse on the beach, stranded by the receding tide. It was lying in a groove created by the tyre tracks of a cyclist that had passed by five minutes earlier. The school children were very excited by this find, though tinged with sadness as the seahorse was clearly dead, both out of water and run over. I placed it in a small container of seawater so that the children could get a better view then tucked it away in my rucksack. Later, the children asked to see it again so I took the container out to find that the seahorse was now swimming around in circles. Brilliant!


Author: Kevin Rideout

National Trust Visitor Experience Officer based at Studland

2 thoughts on “Seahorse survival

  1. In 2009 the Studland Bay Preservation Association was formed by locals who object to plans to make Studland Bay a Marine Conservation Zone with restrictions on boat anchoring and mooring.
    We have photographic evidence of large numbers of boats anchoring off South Beach during the summer season dating back to 1936 and a 2 year Survey of the Studland Bay Seagrass Meadows in 2011 found no concrete evidence that anchoring was having any long term effect on the the seagrass. In fact government aerial photographs from over the last 30 years actually show the seagrass meadows off South beach are actually expanding and getting thicker in nature.
    In 2009 The Seahorse Trust started a Lottery Funded Studland Seahorse Tagging Project off South Beach, which involved man handling and tagging seahorses found in the area. Studies have shown that none of the 12 seahorses tagged during this project have ever returned to Studland Bay the following year which could be proof that they do not return to the same spot annually to breed and move around . The SBPA objected to the tagging and handling of the Studland Seahorses because we feared it was causing the creatures undue stress being man handled ,measured and tags checked on a weekly basis. Luckily after 5 years the Seahorse Tust has stopped tagging seahorses and now uses photo identity methods instead.
    The SBPA has attended many government funded meetings and working groups since 2008 in order to preserve Studland Bay in its present state and keep it free from restrictions so wildlife and humans can enjoy it as they have done for the past 80 years. The minutes of these meetings can be found on the Marine Management Organisation website ,under Studland Bay Working Group.
    Seahorses have been reported at many locations around the British Isles ,including Weymouth Harbour, Portland Harbour, Poole Harbour,Jersey Harbour, Guernsey Marina,Brixham,Torbay, Torquay Marina, The Fleet Weymouth, Selsey Bill, The Solent, Southampton Water, Brighton Marina,Shoreham Harbour Approaches, Dartmouth .Plymouth Sound . Penzance , Bembridge Harbour and even in the Thames off Greenwich. It is widely known that seahorse numbers fluctuate year on year at all these locations and therefore any allegations relating to pleasure craft in Studland Bay having a negative impact on the seagrass or numbers of seahorses are quite misleading.
    Further information can be found on our Facebook Page SAVE STUDLAND BAY .

  2. Great story!!

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