The Rann Government has moved to deliver greater protection for sea horses, pipefish and weedy seadragons in South Australian waters by declaring them protected species, like the leafy seadragon.
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Minister, Rory McEwen said today the decision reflected a commitment by the Premier at a Community Cabinet meeting last year to protect the weedy seadragon.
“It also follows a report by the Australian Institute of Criminology that concluded seahorses are vulnerable to organised criminal exploitation and without adequate controls, the viability of stocks may be placed in jeopardy,” Mr McEwen said.
“Sea horses, pipefish and weedy seadragons are some of the most admired creatures in our local waters and they have become a tourist icon.
“The least we can do is protect our wild population from exploitation and make sure that S.A. waters remain a haven for the much loved marine life to flourish.
“Our protection will mean that the animals can’t be taken from our waters, however rare exemptions can still be issued for research and development activities such as those by the Port Lincoln Seahorse Farm and University researchers,” Mr McEwen said.
“Changes to the Fisheries Act regulations have declared the Family Syngnathidae, which includes sea horses, pipefish and seadragons, protected species.
“The most notable of these species is the rare leafy sea dragon which was heavily poached for home aquariums in the late 1980’s and subsequently declared a protected species.
“Leafy and weedy seadragons are closely related species occupying similar environments and habitats with both being listed on the International Red List of Threatened Animals.
“Certain species of pipefish, sea horses and sea dragons have been targeted for use in the Asian apothecary trade. The most sought after species are tropical sea dragons, which can grow up to nearly half a metre in length.
“The species found in South Australian waters are not heavily sought after for this trade, but conservationists are concerned that their over exploitation in tropical waters may cause a shift in focus to local temperate waters.
“As a result of these concerns, we decided to act now to strengthen the degree of protection over these animals to ensure they’re around for a long time to come,” Mr McEwen said.
Hon Rory McEwen
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
Minister for State/Local Government Relations
Minister for Forests