University of Newcastle PhD researcher David Harasti has been in the spotlight this week for his unique approach to increasing seahorse stocks in NSW waters.
In an Australian first, Mr Harasti is tracking the movements of captive-bred seahorses to determine their survival rates in the wild.
He has this week released thirty 3cm-long White's seahorses (Hippocampus whitei) into Sydney Harbour and will track their movements as they acclimatise to their new surroundings. Mr Harasti said he hoped his research could help lead to an increase in seahorse stocks around the world.
"Globally, seahorse populations are under threat from overfishing, habitat destruction and bycatch," Mr Harasti said. "In some regions, seahorse populations have declined to a point where they are seldomnly seen.
"For the first time in Australia we are trialling a program where we are releasing baby seahorses bred at Sydney Aquarium, tagging them, and then releasing them into their natural habitat.
"Over the next 6 months we will monitor their progress to see how they are coping with life in the wild.
"With the support of local divers, we will monitor their movements to determine survival rates and also whether the size or age of seahorses at the time of their release has any influence on their life-span."
White's seahorses are unique to NSW waters. In Sydney Harbour populations can be found in and around mesh swimming nets at Balmoral, Vaucluse, Clifton Gardens and Manly.
Mr Harasti's research is also investigating the best ways for local councils to clean these swimming nets to minimise the impact on local seahorse populations.
The research has been funded by the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund.
It is being conducted under the supervision of Dr Bill Gladstone from the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the Central Coast campus of the University of Newcastle.