Local dive guide and underwater photographer Pete Bullen has been observing seahorses when he happens across them in Malta for many years, through his sightings we can now confirm the first resighting of a female Spiny Seahorse. The small female (nicknamed ‘Milly’) who is in superb condition was first photographed by Pete when he happened across her in mid April 2013, recently he came across her again on his latest dive in mid-May and she was in a similar area to where she was originally found. Pete kindly sends any sightings of seahorses to The Seahorse Trust as we are building up the National Malta Seahorse Database and this is allowing us to get a picture of the seahorses and their behaviour around these amazing islands, in a similar way to the British Seahorse survey we run here in the UK.
The little female Milly has very distinctive spots on her head and by using photo ID techniques we have worked out this is exactly the same female in both sightings. Each seahorse has a ‘thumb print’ of markings on their head which is unique to each individual. The data we are gathering shows the movement and depths the seahorses use and spend time in and this information will be used to help protect seahorses into the future in Malta.
The exact location of a seahorse is never given out because it is important they are left in peace and quiet. In Malta, as it is in the UK, both seahorse species, the Spiny and the Short Snouted are fully protected under environmental laws, this is to ensure we have seahorses well into the future and the research work being undertaken in Malta is part of our information gathering to make sure there is a future for Seahorses.
If Pete happens across a seahorse during his dive, he will photograph it (without a flash) and note the location, depth, habitat and anything unusual about the seahorses or in the area. All this information is then sent to The Seahorse Trust so we can analyse it and add it to the database.
The British Seahorse Survey has been running since 1994 and is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the world; it has over 750 sightings on the National Seahorse Database run by the trust and this database has been used to protect Seahorses throughout the UK. We have made some incredible discoveries about seahorses in the wild and learnt so much more about their behaviour in the wild. The Knowledge we have gathered through working on this survey is being used in Malta and we aim to give them a secure future as well.