A rare seahorse found in NSW coastal waters has been given additional protection with the state’s Fisheries Scientific Committee (FSC) deciding to list the species as endangered.
Following a review of the nomination and a public consultation period, the FSC, an independent committee of seven scientists, determined White’s Seahorse is at high risk of extinction in the near future.
Named after John White, Surgeon General to the First Fleet, the medium-sized seahorse changes colour depending on the situation and the colour of the habitat it is living on.
White’s Seahorse is endemic to the East Coast of Australia and favours estuaries from Hervey Bay in southern Queensland, to Sussex Inlet on the South Coast of NSW.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Senior Fisheries Manager, Threatened Species, Dr Trevor Daly, says the loss of their natural habitat, including seagrasses, soft corals and sponges, as a result of human population pressure and activities such as anchoring, installation of moorings and dredging, has led to a dramatic decline in numbers.
“The seahorse also utilises a range of artificial habitats such as the protective swimming nets in Sydney Harbour and jetty pylons, so DPI is working with local councils to ensure the cleaning and maintenance of these nets is undertaken in a way that minimises these impacts,” Dr Daley says.
“White’s Seahorse, known more commonly as the Sydney Seahorse, is one of only four species of seahorse known to occur in NSW waters, and it’s heartbreaking to see the species in such rapid decline – fortunately the status of ‘endangered’ provides the protection and support critical to their recovery.”
NSW DPI Fisheries will now work with other organisations, researchers and the broader community to implement the Priorities Action Statement for White’s Seahorse, which establishes and prioritises strategies and actions for addressing threats, and promoting the recovery of this species.
In addition to the Priorities Action Statement, under the status of ‘endangered’, White’s Seahorse will now be protected by heavier penalties for harming, possessing, buying or selling, or interfering with their habitat.
NSW DPI maintains a database of threatened species in NSW to monitor the number, location and movements of these important species. To report a sighting of White’s Seahorse go to the NSW DPI website.