The Sydney Seahorse Project collected three pregnant male seahorses in January 2023, which then birthed seahorse fry in the SIMS aquarium facility. The juvenile seahorses have been reared under experimental conditions including temperature, feeding regimes and stocking densities to optimise the husbandry of juvenile White’s seahorses in captivity, and improve their growth rate and survival.
Experiments have also been conducted to assess the ontogenetic shift in habitat preference of juvenile seahorses to inform habitat protection. The project is aiming to develop techniques to condition captive-born seahorses to the natural environment prior to their reintroduction, through introduction to naturally occurring habitats such as seagrass and macroalgaes, and exposure to predators such as cuttlefish.
The Sydney Seahorse Project has also collaborated with researchers from the Marine Sensory Ecology Group at the University of Queensland to assess how light affects seahorse behaviour, including feeding success under different wavelengths and intensities.
In July 2023, over 350 juvenile White’s seahorses were released into Chowder Bay, Mosman. Each seahorse was tagged using a visual implant elastomer tag, enabling researchers to monitor their survival, growth and reproductive success in the wild.
The rigorous scientific approach employed by the Sydney Seahorse Project will inform best practice conservation for the White’s seahorse, ultimately aiming to improve post-release survival of captive-bred seahorses and assist in recovering wild seahorse populations, whilst increasing the opportunity for future persistence of the species. The science may also provide a framework for the conservation of other threatened marine fishes.