Frequently Asked Questions

Are there still seahorses in Studland Bay?

Seahorses are experts at camouflage ­ a defence against predators and aid to catching their prey. As a result they are very difficult to spot, but they are there. Numbers tend to fluctuate from year to year. In 2009 there were over 40 sightings of seahorses but in 2013 only a handful. This may be a result of weather, water temperature, availability of prey and health of their habitat.

Why is anchoring a problem?

  • Anchors rip up the Seagrass roots which then wash up onto the beach and therefore cannot re-establish.
  • Anchors leave bare craters, drag and create furrows and result in the fragmentation of the habitat.
  • Slack chains at low tide drag across blades.

The Royal Yachting Association has produced a guide to Anchoring With Care in Studland Bay ­ download the leaflet at this link.

Paul Naylor short snouted seahorse

Paul Naylor - Short snouted seahorse

Why is there so much seagrass washed up on the beach?

It is a natural occurrence in autumn/winter when the seagrass dies back, just as trees lose their leaves in the autumn. However the root system remains in place - it is just the leaves that wash up.

At other times of year, and when roots are attached, it usually as a result of human activities pulling up the plants.

Why is the problem happening now?

It is not a new problem but is being looked into more now because we are more aware of our marine wildlife and there are now laws in place to protect it.

Where is the Voluntary No-Anchor Zone?

A temporary voluntary no anchor zone (VNAZ) was created in 2010 for a research project to investigate if boating activity was having a detrimental impact on the seagrass meadows. At the end of the project the VNAZ was removed. You can read the project report here.

Where is the best place to see/find seahorses?

Seahorses have been found in the area, however we cannot say where the best place is. We strongly discourage scuba diving in the area as it is extremely dangerous with the high numbers of boats. There is a diving protocol which must be followed when diving in seagrass and a special licence is required if you are actively seeking out seahorses and/or photographing them. See our diving protocol.

Do seahorses move around or stay in one place?

A seahorse tagging project showed that breeding seahorses stay in a small area but single animals may move around looking for a mate. It is also believed that seahorses move to deeper water in the autumn and winter.

Where should I report a seahorse sighting?

Please send details of any sightings to .

How long have the seahorses been in Studland Bay?

We do not know but almost certainly for the last 60 years or so, and probably much longer. The logo of the local brewery is a seahorse! Find out about seahorses.

Will boats be banned?

As seahorses and their habitat are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act it is the duty of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to look into options for sustainable management of the bay. Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) believes that the bay can be managed for the benefit of both wildlife and people. A working group which includes DWT, MMO, Natural England, Royal Yachting Association, The Crown Estate, local sailing community and Studland residents is investigating options to enable this.

Why has Studland Bay been recommended as a Marine Conservation Zone?

Studland Bay is an important site for marine wildlife, including some nationally and commercially important species. Extensive and dense seagrass meadows provide a breeding ground for cuttlefish and both types of British seahorses as well as a nursery area for commercial species such as bass, black bream, plaice and sole. All six species of British pipefish are found there.

The Bay is also one of only two sites in England being put forward for protection of the undulate ray, an endangered species. Juvenile rays use the Bay as a nursery area after hatching from their eggcases, known as mermaid’s purses. Find out more about this species here

In the wider bay, shallow-water, sandy plains support a range of shellfish, including the native oyster, the Chinese-hat shell, hermit crabs and the masked crab. Within the sand live many species of burrowing bivalves and worms such as lugworms and the sandmason worm.

Find out more about the importance of seagrass meadows

 

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