Date

Monday, 24 December 2018

Release

Some of Australia’s most endearing and rare sea creatures, White's Seahorses, are taking shelter in Northern Beaches Council’s highly popular tidal swimming pools.

And Council pool-maintenance and environment staff couldn’t be more delighted, even pitching in to help the threatened species beat the odds.

Northern Beaches Council has partnered with NSW Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and seahorse experts to develop and implement protocols to maintain Council’s tidal pools while removing any significant disturbance to seahorse populations.

Mayor Michael Regan said Council is currently completing significant environmental assessments for each of its tidal pools and now also engages specialists to conduct regular ‘pre-works’ surveys of tidal pool structures to identify individual Seahorses likely to be disturbed by maintenance works.

“Maintenance work is currently underway at Forty Baskets and Clontarf pools,” said Mayor Regan.

“But before any work commenced, a number of White’s Seahorses were carefully relocated to nearby seagrass beds by scuba-divers expert in the handling of the little animals. Mating pairs were, of course, relocated together.

“So far, divers have successfully translocated 36 White’s Seahorses, some pregnant, to nearby seagrass meadows,” said Mayor Regan.

It is the male seahorses that brood the fertilised eggs in a swollen pouch before eventually ‘birthing’ the fully formed juveniles when they are ready. The divers also relocated a number of pipefish, in the same family, that had made his home in one of the pools.

Guidelines for cleaning of pool nets to minimise harm to the seahorses are being developed by NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee and provided to all NSW councils.

“Northern Beaches Council is proud to lead the way by adopting new practices to help ensure the survival of the White’s Seahorse,” said Mayor, Michael Regan.

“I’d particularly like to thank our contractors, Sea Dragon Protective Enclosures; our partners at the NSW Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries; and of course, our wonderful Construction & Maintenance and Environment staff who are showing great professionalism and dedication in looking out for these beautiful, precious animals.”

White's Seahorse, is recommended for ‘endangered species’ listing, and is just one among an amazing number of marine species that call Northern Beaches Council’s nine tidal pools ‘home’ - including seagrasses, seaweeds, soft corals, oysters, pipefish and sea urchins, among others.

White’s Seahorse (Hippocampus whitei) is suffering serious population decline with surveys over the past decade revealing decreases of up to 95 percent.

“White's Seahorse is unique to the south-eastern and south-western coasts of Australia, occurring in depths down to about 25 metres in temperate marine waters, including in Sydney Harbour,” said Todd Dickinson, Council’s Executive Manager Natural Environment & Climate Change.

“The seahorse’s soon-to-be-official ‘endangered’ listing means the species is likely to become extinct in the wild - unless something can be done to arrest key threatening processes.

“As a result of the decline in their natural habitats, especially near heavily populated estuary coastlines, White’s Seahorses are now more commonly found on artificial structures - such as the shark-meshes in Council’s tidal pools around Manly and Pittwater, which provide an excellent habitat for the little marine animals.”

Council’s pool-maintenance staff and contractors’ regular cleaning and repair of tidal pools create opportunities to work closely with White’s Seahorses and gather important data on their numbers.