• One of the endangered seahorses relocated from Forty Baskets Tidal Pool

Friday, 22 May 2020

Moving house can be stressful at the best of times. However, two thriving colonies of endangered seahorses at Forty Baskets and Little Manly Tidal Pools were in the best of hands when they were recently moved to a temporary home close by while both tidal pools are being rebuilt.

More than 30 seahorses have been relocated so far from Forty Baskets and about 23 from Little Manly. The delicate operation to move them was carefully planned and carried out by Council’s staff, specialist marine ecology consultants and environmental scientific diving contractors.

Council waited until the seahorse breeding season had concluded at the end of April before moving them and beginning reconstruction work.

Carl Fallon of Seadragon Diving Company and member of The Abyss Project, the relocation divers, described the discovery of 33 seahorses at Forty Baskets as ‘truly phenomenal’.

“It’s the largest number of seahorses we have seen for the size of the area and included the largest seahorse (about 150mm) we have ever relocated.

“Obviously, it is a thriving community. Normally we find one or two seahorses for every 10 square metres in prime natural habitat. But we were discovering more than one every one square metre on these structures. It’s primary due to the increased safety and protection these artificial habitats provide these special endangered species that really helps promote higher density communities which results in higher breeding rates and population booms in these areas.

"This shows how important these netted tidal pool structures are to the conservation of these endangered species to help in their revival.

Before the relocation began, an extensive habitat assessment of the area was carried out with divers spending more than 12 hours in the water. The seahorses when located are gently coaxed into little bags and brought up to a boat, which transported them to a secret NSW Fisheries approved location not too far away.

At their new location, they wasted little time seeking out the safety and comfort of the sea grass as they settled in to their new digs.

While moving the seahorses, the scientific divers also discovered a rare yellow angler fish. This unusual fish is about the size of a cricket ball and walks along the sea floor on four ‘hands’. The yellow angler fish was also relocated.

The existing pool structure at Forty Baskets has now been completely demolished to allow construction work to begin. Work on the tidal pool is expected to be complete in September.

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