UK seahorse numbers increase during Lockdown

The Seahorse Trust has reported that the largest number of Spiny seahorses have been seen off Dorset since 2008. The fish live in Seagrass beds at Studland Bay and this year 16 were counted on a single dive. They included pregnant males and two babies. 

No seahorses had been seen in the area since 2018 when divers found a single dead one. 

Neil Garrick-Maidment, the founder of the Seahorse Trust, said the increase was down to fewer people, boats and their anchors, and that the seagrass habitat had had time to repair itself:

 “We have seen so many seahorses because the food chain has recovered, giving seahorses plenty of food to eat, and crucially, somewhere to hide.”

The Seahorse Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust said that boat moorings can damage seagrass by dragging and scouring the seabed. A recent study also found that pollution was a threat to seagrass. 

35 spotted so far

Last year, 74 specimens of the Spiny and Short-snouted seahorses were recorded off the UK coast. 35 have been spotted this year so far.

In 2015 40 Spiny seahorses were recorded, but only two live ones had been spotted since 2015 until the Studland Bay dive this year. 

British seahorses are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which prevents them being killed, injured or taken. Studland Bay was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) last year, so that may also be a major contributing factor in the count this year. 

Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.