An extremely rare breed of seahorse has been discovered off the coast of Devon. The Short Snouted Seahorse, also known as Hippocampus Hippocampus, was found by experts at the National Marine Aquarium and volunteers, as part of an ongoing review into the local marine life, called the Community Seagrass Initiative.
The Biodiversity Action Plan species of seahorse is most commonly found in shallow waters where there are abundant supplies of seaweed and seagrass. Its native habitat is off the south west coast of the UK, but is more commonly found now in Mediterranean waters. Due to environmental changes, in recent years there has been a sharp decline in the number of wild Short Snouted Seahorses, and it’s currently on the list of European species that require an action plan to stope decline in the U.K.
Mark Parry, Community Seagrass Initiative Project Manager at the National Marine Aquarium, said: “It is with great excitement that we are able to announce our first seahorse sighting within one of our seagrass surveys. Our volunteer divers even managed to capture photos of the beautiful animal.
“It is an extremely rare discovery to find a Short Snouted Seahorse in the UK, so to see one healthy and enjoying the natural coastal habitat in Devon is wonderful. It’s our intention to conduct follow up surveys to establish if this is a lone seahorse, or if there are a number within the seagrass bed.
“Seahorses were once a common breed on the south coast, but, the rarity of this sighting is unfortunately a sign of how our ocean environments have changed. We will work closely with our marine partners to fully understand the significance of the discovery, to help protect and preserve our ocean habitats for the future.”
The National Marine Aquarium’s Community Seagrass Initiative covers a 191 mile stretch of coastline from Looe in Cornwall, to Weymouth in Dorset. It looks to find out more about native seagrass to help conserve the fragile ocean eco-system. The aim is to engage coastal communities with their special marine habitats to raise awareness and promote conservation.
Seagrass meadows are home to some of the most charismatic species in the UK, including seahorses and cuttlefish, and act as a nursery ground for commercial fish species. They can also improve water quality and stabilise sediments, reducing coastal erosion.
To find out more information about the Community Seagrass Initiative or to get involved, please visit www.national-aquarium.co.uk or www.csi-seagrass.com