In very, very good news for seahorses, Sydney Harbour, and Sydneysiders, for the first time in recorded history, scientists have discovered an endangered seahorse species living quietly beneath the Opera House.
In 2019, the Opera House installed a series of artificial modular reefs on the underside of their building, with scientists hoping to increase marine biodiversity across the entirety of Sydney Harbour. In early August, marine scientists inspected the living artificial reefs for the first time in a year, and happened across a pretty remarkable discovery: an endangered White’s Seahorse, a tiny species that generally lives closer to the open ocean, and are very rarely found this far up in Sydney Harbour.
Compounded with the fact that this artificial reef is installed in relatively murky waters, in a seriously busy part of Sydney Harbour, the seahorses’ discovery is made even more incredible, proving that these living seawall fixtures are, in fact, working.
This living seawall is one of nine that currently line the Harbour, with scientists having installed concrete panels that resemble the natural fixtures of the harbour environment in the hopes that they will attract smaller marine creatures, which in turn will attract penguins, seals, dolphins and big fish back into the harbour – whilst also improving overall water quality.
Following a $9.1 million funding boost from the NSW state government, at least 70 more living seawalls are planned to be installed in the harbour, along with the widespread planting of seagrass meadows and kelp forests to assist with restoring habitats, enhancing marine biodiversity and increasing carbon storage.
Marine scientists and researchers are working together to restore Sydney Harbour back to its former glory as a thriving estuary ecosystem following the human-induced degradation of the harbour over the past 50 years, with the success of the living seawalls instilling everyone with a sense of real hope for the future.
Combine this with the stupendous news that the coral in the Great Barrier Reef is growing back at an unprecedented rate, and frankly folks, we all have a winner.