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Seahorse Hotel Expansion in Sydney Harbour

  • Tuesday 8th June 2021
  • Seahorses, Conservation

One Of The Baby White's Seahorses Surviving After Release In The Wild

Today is World Oceans Day - a day to inspire action and protect the ocean. To mark the occasion, 18 new Seahorse Hotels have been placed underwater in Sydney Harbour to provide vital housing for the next colony of baby Endangered White’s Seahorses, which will be released from SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in time for National Threatened Species Day on 7th September.

Commenting on the deployment of nine hotels in both Delwood Beach and Little Manly, Laura Simmons, Curator at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, said, “We’re now in year two of a multi-year project that aims to recover and eventually de-list the currently Endangered White’s Seahorses. I’m extremely proud that this project, which provides habitat for seahorses, has maintained such strong momentum through its many vital stages.”

“Today marked another major milestone for the seahorse team as we tripled the number of Seahorse Hotels in Sydney Harbour. Successful Seahorse Hotel deployment is critical as the Posidonia seagrass and the Cauliflower soft coral that seahorses call home are also endangered. The Seahorse Hotels provide the perfect haven for these seahorses and their native habitats to flourish.

Seahorse Hotels start as artificial habitats that grow into natural habitats once they are placed in the marine environment. Over time, the corals, sponges, algae, and encrusting animals that colonise these structures provide protection from predators and a ready supply of food, making them the perfect home for seahorses. Seahorse Hotels are designed to be completely biodegradable, so the artificial structures will slowly collapse over time under the weight of the marine growth, leaving a new natural habitat behind.

Dr. David Harasti, Senior Marine Scientist with DPI Fisheries, said, “To ensure the survival of the White’s Seahorse in the wild, it is essential that we maintain and protect the marine habitats that they rely on. If we lose the habitats, then we lose the seahorses.”

The White’s Seahorse breeding and recovery project is a collaborative effort between SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries, Ocean Youth, the Gamay Rangers, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, generous support from Taylors Wines and all those who support the campaign.

Robert Cooley, Senior Ranger for the Gamay Rangers says, “The Gamay Ranger team is delighted to be a part of this important project to save the Sydney Seahorse populations in Sydney Harbour together with the DPI and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Seagrass beds are prime habitat for these wonderful creatures and are culturally significant areas to Indigenous communities along the southern coast as they provide critical habitat for all types of marine life – including many fish species which are very important for our communities. We look forward to seeing the Sydney Seahorse population recover and thrive again in our bays.”

SEAHORSE HOTEL 4

TIMELINE OF THE WHITE’S SEAHORSE RECOVERY PROJECT TO DATE

  1. Collect: In October 2019, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium team worked closely with experts from DPI Fisheries and University Technology Sydney (UTS) to collect breeding pairs from Sydney Harbour, including some pregnant males
  2. Breed: The seahorses were then placed into a custom-built seahorse breeding facility at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, where dozens of White’s Seahorses were successfully bred on site and put on display to delight and educate visitors.
  3. Prepare hotels: In March 2020, nine Seahorse Hotels were placed underwater in Clifton Gardens, Mosman to provide new homes for the juvenile seahorses being raised at the aquarium.
  4. Tag and release: In May 2020, juvenile White’s Seahorses were carefully tagged for future monitoring. The seahorses were injected just under their skin, with coloured elastomer fish tags in a unique pattern, allowing them to be individually identified. The tagged seahorses were then successfully released into their Sydney Harbour ‘Seahorse Hotels’.
  5. Additional Hotel drop: Today, the team tripled the number of Seahorse Hotels in Sydney Harbour with the addition of nine Seahorse Hotels deployed to Delwood Beach and nine in Little Manly.
  6. Baby Seahorse release #2: In September 2021, dozens more baby Seahorses will be tagged then released into the new Seahorse Hotel sites.

SEAHORSE HOTEL 12

More about the White’s Seahorse, also known as the Sydney Seahorse

The species was named after John White, Surgeon General to the First Fleet and is endemic to the east coast of Australia. White’s Seahorses can be found in a variety of colours and they can change their colour to match where they are living. Following a dramatic decline in numbers over the past decade, White’s Seahorse (Sydney Seahorse) has recently been listed as an ‘Endangered’ species in NSW. It is now Australia’s only threatened Seahorse species and the second Endangered Seahorse species worldwide.

For more information on the Seahorse Project click here.

To secure tickets to visit the baby seahorses that are currently on display in our Seahorse Breeding lab click the link below. 

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