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Published: 2008-09-03 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has awarded $2800 to University of Waikato student Jennifer Nickel for research into the native “pot-belly” seahorse.

Hippocampus abdominalis is the biggest seahorse species in the world, found only in New Zealand and along the south-eastern coast of Australia.  It  normally lives in shallow water amongst rock pools and seaweed.

Like all seahorse species, it is listed as vulnerable by the UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

However there is currently not enough information available for a proper assessment of its conservation status.

Ms Nickel, who is completing her Master of Science (technology) degree, is investigating the genetic diversity and dispersal of Hippocampus abdominalis in the North Island.  This will complement work done by NIWA in the South Island, providing a thorough overview of seahorse populations around New Zealand.

“In terms of direct benefit to the Waikato region, surveys indicate Raglan, which has a large population of seahorses relative to other sites, could serve as an in-depth case study site within the research project,” Environment Waikato environment committee chair Jane Hennebry said.

“This should give an indication of the health of the seahorse population in Raglan.”

Environment Waikato has granted the money from its Environmental Initiatives Fund, which is for projects that promote or contribute to the sustainable management of the New Zealand environment.