Marine biologists restoring populations of seahorses off Australia’s east coast are ecstatic at the best efforts they’ve seen so far.
Hundreds of White’s seahorses, the only seahorse or seadragon species on Australia’s national endangered species list, were released into the waters north of Newcastle into specially-made “hotels.”
The project was conducted through a private-public effort consisting of the Sydney Aquarium and the Department of Primary Industries, (DPI) an agency that oversees hunting, agriculture, fishing, and forestry.
A generation ago, divers might see two dozen White’s seahorses at a time off Sydney Harbor at a refuge called Port Stephens, but coastal development and boat moorings have disrupted the habitat of these beautiful and strange creatures.
Sydney Aquarium has a very successful breeding program for the animal that uses individuals from Port Stephens as broodstock. The fathers raise the eggs of the next generation in a belly pouch—a feature unique in the entire animal kingdom—and are collected in large bags of seawater after they hatch.
They are then taken to the refuges and lowered down into their hotels. The hotels are essentially cages meant for much larger animals. They create plenty of nooks and crannies that serve as habitat for them and their prey species like crustaceans.
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Recently, aboard a DPI boat off Nelson Bay, Dr. David Harasti, a scientist with the department, released 350 baby seahorses at one time.
“That was the best one we’ve ever done—350 baby seahorses sitting around in their new home,” he told ABC au, who filmed him doing the release.
“It’s great to see and I can’t wait to go back in a couple of weeks and see how they’re doing.”
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Harasti is planning to check up on his charges this coming October to see how they’re doing.
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