Celebrating Our Species with: Boatfolk
Our marinas, ports and harbours are safehavens, not just for sailors, seafarers, visitors and guests but for many amazing creatures that use these areas for breeding and feeding, as a playground and as a home. Researching and celebrating the species in our marinas is a great way to help protect their habitats, educate and inspire berthholders and visitors, and raise awareness marine conservation, biodiversity and the importance of clean and healthy waters.
We caught up with boatfolk on one of their initiatives - rewilding the endangered short snouted seahorse at Haslar Marina, UK:
At boatfolk we want to help wildlife thrive, and we do all we can to make sure our enjoyment of the coastline doesn’t come at the expense of other species. At each of our marinas we have a dedicated environmental mascot that we want to stick up for. We do our best to not only protect their habitat, but to educate others about how to ensure they continue to thrive for years to come. Earlier this year we joined forces with The Seahorse Trust and Portsmouth University to launch an innovative new re-wilding project that creates a safe habitat for the UK's native seahorse species, the protected short snouted seahorse. As part of this project, we have installed a biohut cage system under the pontoons at Haslar Marina to provide a home for seahorses alongside other vibrant marine wildlife.
What's happening under the pontoons?
Watch the live feed of the Biohut cage system, an artificial marine aquatic nursery which provides food and shelter to many juvenile species. It restores the ecological nursery function that is lost when natural shallow coastal waters become urban environments. A specialist gauge rope has also been added to give the Short Snouted Seahorse the ideal environment to thrive, hunt and hide from prey.
This re-wilding project forms part of our wider environmental program, Coastline Deadline, designed to back projects which have a positive and measurable impact on the coastline.
Ben Lippiett, Marina Manager at Haslar, says, “We are thrilled to be working with our partners at Portsmouth University and The Seahorse Trust to create these wonderfully beneficial Biohuts under our pontoons. Re-wilding projects like this make a real difference by providing juvenile species with a safe place to thrive, which can be a challenge in urban harbours like ours. Through our underwater cameras, we hope this project will educate and inspire people about the huge amount of biodiversity within our seas. We’re also pleased to name the Short Snouted Seahorse as the new mascot for Haslar Marina! The innovative Biohut systems have been specifically designed to help these majestic and protected creatures thrive.”
Both of the UK’s native seahorse species – the Spiny and the Short Snouted – were granted protected status in 2008 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Neil Garrick-Maidment, Executive Director and Founder of The Seahorse Trust, comments, “The immensely important work that Portsmouth University are doing in partnership with boatfolk and us at The Seahorse Trust will make a significant difference to the seahorses found in the marinas. By providing additional, secure habitats for the seahorses, boatfolk’s marinas will become a safe haven for so many important species. The biodiversity that will build up under the pontoons will act as a natural filter and ecological reservoir, enhancing the site and making a considerable difference to the carbon footprint of the marinas, as well as increasing biodiversity in the region. When this is rolled out to other boatfolk sites along the South Coast, the Biohuts will become an important habitat for so many critical species, helping to enhance and protect our natural world.”
Dr Ian Hendy from The Institute of Marine Sciences at Portsmouth University, adds, " Whilst many studies report on the decline of coastal biodiversity, we will be reporting on how the Biohuts have created new and rich safe habitats for a vast number of baby, rare, and endangered aquatic animals in the marinas of the Solent. This project will greatly improve the vibrant wildlife, the environment and will benefit communities local to the Solent." Beside its ecological benefits, the Biohut is a useful tool to collect scientific data on coastal colonisation by juvenile fish, as well as raising public awareness on marine biodiversity.