Fisherman’s one in 100,000 catch
A SEAHORSE was caught on a fishing hook off Shorncliffe Pier earlier this month.
The small White Seahorse lives in shallow waters from Hervey Bay to Wollongong, but Queensland Museum ichthyologist Jeff Johnson said the chances of hooking one were about 100,000 to one.
"This must be the unluckiest seahorse in the ocean," said Mr Johnson, who identified the tiny marine fish from a photograph.
"He must have just been in the right spot to be jabbed with a hook, and they have quite tough skin.
"He certainly wasn't going for the bait. Seahorses have small tubelike snouts and eat plankton and shrimp."
Renate Hottmann-Schaefer posted photos of the seahorse on the Protect the Sandgate Waders Facebook page on January 14.
"First we thought that this is a strange looking lure, but then it moved," the post read.
"Luckily the hook was only under the skin at the rear of its neck and we were able to remove it easily.
"After a few quick shots we returned it to the sea. After a short time it disappeared into the darkness of the water.
"We never ever expected to find those hyper-cute little critters in our area."
Mr Johnson said seahorses do come quite close to the shore from time to time.
"I have seen them in shallow seagrass beds in Moreton Bay; as a child I saw them on Scarborough Beach.
"They do try to be as inconspicuous as possible. That one was probably hanging around the poles of the jetty and there was probably some weed growing close to that.
"Divers see them from time to time down in Sydney Harbour ... but it's easy to overlook them as they live among seagrass and algae."
Mr Johnson said the seahorse breeding season was in the warmer months from October to April "so they are probably a lot more active around then".
He said while it was uncommon to catch one on a hook, people did often catch them in bait nets or cast nets.
Sadly, Mr Johnson said seahorse numbers were diminishing "for a whole host of reasons".
"They are collected for the aquarium trade and are caught in bycatch by prawn trawlers," he said.
"Some of their habitat has been reduced by siltation and marinas; like a lot of marine creatures, their habitat is encroached upon."
Mr Johnson said this particular seahorse species was originally known as the Highcrown Seahorse with a habitat from Hervey Bay to Moreton Bay.
"Quite recently some scientists have had a look at the White Seahorse known from NSW and determined the two species are actually one.
"So it's officially the White Seahorse (Hippocampus Whitei) which was named after the surgeon general on one of the First Fleet ships, Dr John White.
"So it's been around for a long time."