Study reveals marine parks pose threat to seahorses

MARINE parks in NSW appear to be having an adverse affect on seahorse populations, according to new research.

A four year study into the state’s controversial marine parks network has shown these areas are harbouring increased numbers of seahorse predators.

“Our results are contrary to what has previously been suggested. This is one of the reasons why we did this project, to test the effectiveness of no-take marine reserves as a tool for seahorse conservation,” Port Stephens marine scientist David Harasti, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In research carried out by Dr Harasti, populations of White’s Seahorse, and its predators, such as octopus, flathead and scorpionfish, were monitored at four sites around Nelson Bay within the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park. He found the seahorse’s numbers were higher outside no-take areas, while predator numbers were higher inside no-take areas.

‘‘When the numbers of predators went up, the numbers of seahorses went down,” Dr Harasti said.

‘‘Within marine reserves there will be winners and losers and it appears seahorses may end up being on the losing species as a result of increased numbers of predators following the removal of fishing.”

Project supervisor and UTS head of the school of the environment, Bill Gladstone, said Dr Harasti’s research would require authorities to reconsider the effects of marine reserves and what conservation measures were needed to protect White’s Seahorse.

More details and images available at: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/seahorses-under-threat-in-marine-parks-study-20140819-105uw9.html#ixzz3AyUFZOcZ

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