Gaynor, from Kenna Eco Diving, tells us about the problems facing the Posidonia Pipefish, and what is being done to help protect it.

1. What is the issue
The Costa Brava provides scuba divers with interesting underwater landscapes: sheer walls covered in colourful hard and soft corals and sponges, home to a great diversity of creatures that feed on them, and exciting cave systems with their own distinctive ecosystems and huge air chambers full of stalagmites.
However, without the presence of Posidonia oceanica we would not have the biodiversity that attracts hundreds of divers and snorkelers each year, as the seagrass meadows are a vital habitat for hundreds of different species of fish and marine invertebrates.
The Posidonia pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, has evolved to perfectly resemble a blade of Posidonia seagrass. It is so well camouflaged that it is virtually impossible to see unless it happens to swim above or outside the seagrass beds, which is a rare occurrence. It is a poor swimmer and rarely ventures out of the safety of the Posidonia meadows, spending its time head down within the Posidonia shoots searching for tiny shrimps to eat. It is totally dependent on this habitat for daily food and shelter, and as a seasonal breeding ground and nursery.
Posidonia oceanica faces many threats to its survival due to the growing pressures placed upon Mediterranean coastal ecosystems. As the Posidonia meadows are being destroyed the Posidonia pipefish, relative of the seahorse and so perfectly adapted to its habitat, is becoming harder to find. Now we are lucky to spot one or two per dive season whilst Eco Diving (diving twice per day from May to October each year for the purpose of marine conservation research).
Posidonia oceanica, a habitat unique to the Mediterranean Sea, is a protected species and Posidonia beds are identified as a priority habitat for conservation under the European Unions Habitats Directive (Dir 92/43/CEE). Catalunya banned otter-trawling over Posidonia beds many years ago. Yet its destruction continues at an alarming rate due to unregulated pleasure boat anchoring.
In one bay on the Costa Brava, where we have been diving and carrying out research for the past 12 years, weve have witnessed a loss of an estimated 25% of the Posidonia beds, with an accompanying loss of biodiversity. Where there were once lush meadows of Posidonia teaming with marine life, we now see barren sediment, often littered with trash from tourist boats.
2. What is/has/could be done about it
The Environment Agencys conservation management has mainly focused on protection from physical damage through the prevention of otter-trawling over seagrass beds. In some areas seagrass-friendly moorings for boats are installed during the peak summer months, but there is no incentive for boaters to pay to use them when they are not penalised for simply dropping anchor in the Posidonia beds, destroying hundreds of years of growth in minutes. It is left to us divers, who witness the damage being caused first hand, to try to reason with boaters and explain that Posidonia is an important protected species.
Posidonia oceanica is one of the key species being studied by Eco Dive Volunteers assisting with the SILMAR Project. Our aims are;
To quantifying the current level of Posidonia oceanica destruction through regular observation and measurement
To raise awareness of this situation via a poster and leaflet campaign aimed at pleasure boaters, marinas and yacht clubs
3. Who are the main people/organisations involved
Kenna Eco Diving coordinates conservation research in the Posidonia oceanica ecosystem with the SILMAR Project, collating data with the help of volunteer divers who come from all over the world to spend a few weeks or months assisting with the project.
4. Where can I get more information
Theres more info on Posidonia oceanica on our volunteers website.
Gaynor has written in-depth articles on Posidonia oceanica for the MARBEF Wiki:
http://www.marbef.org/wiki/Mediterranean_seagrass_ecosystem
http://www.marbef.org/wiki/Posidonia_oceanica_%28Linnaeus%29_Delile
You can also visit www.kennaecodiving.net , www.marine-life-costa-brava.org, www.silmar.org
5. What can I do?
You can join us as an Eco Dive volunteer and take part in data collection on the Posidonia pipefish and other threatened species within the Posidonia meadows. You can also help with our fundraising to support the poster campaign by doing your online shopping via this link on our website.

1. What is the issue

The Costa Brava provides scuba divers with interesting underwater landscapes: sheer walls covered in colourful hard and soft corals and sponges, home to a great diversity of creatures that feed on them, and exciting cave systems with their own distinctive ecosystems and huge air chambers full of stalagmites. However, without the presence of Posidonia oceanica we would not have the biodiversity that attracts hundreds of divers and snorkelers each year, as the seagrass meadows are a vital habitat for hundreds of different species of fish and marine invertebrates.

The Posidonia pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, has evolved to perfectly resemble a blade of Posidonia seagrass. It is so well camouflaged that it is virtually impossible to see unless it happens to swim above or outside the seagrass beds, which is a rare occurrence. It is a poor swimmer and rarely ventures out of the safety of the Posidonia meadows, spending its time head down within the Posidonia shoots searching for tiny shrimps to eat. It is totally dependent on this habitat for daily food and shelter, and as a seasonal breeding ground and nursery.

Posidonia oceanica faces many threats to its survival due to the growing pressures placed upon Mediterranean coastal ecosystems. As the Posidonia meadows are being destroyed the Posidonia pipefish, relative of the seahorse and so perfectly adapted to its habitat, is becoming harder to find. Now we are lucky to spot one or two per dive season whilst Eco Diving (diving twice per day from May to October each year for the purpose of marine conservation research).

Posidonia oceanica, a habitat unique to the Mediterranean Sea, is a protected species and Posidonia beds are identified as a priority habitat for conservation under the European Unions Habitats Directive (Dir 92/43/CEE). Catalunya banned otter-trawling over Posidonia beds many years ago. Yet its destruction continues at an alarming rate due to unregulated pleasure boat anchoring.

In one bay on the Costa Brava, where we have been diving and carrying out research for the past 12 years, weve have witnessed a loss of an estimated 25% of the Posidonia beds, with an accompanying loss of biodiversity. Where there were once lush meadows of Posidonia teaming with marine life, we now see barren sediment, often littered with trash from tourist boats.

2. What is/has/could be done about it

The Environment Agencys conservation management has mainly focused on protection from physical damage through the prevention of otter-trawling over seagrass beds. In some areas seagrass-friendly moorings for boats are installed during the peak summer months, but there is no incentive for boaters to pay to use them when they are not penalised for simply dropping anchor in the Posidonia beds, destroying hundreds of years of growth in minutes. It is left to us divers, who witness the damage being caused first hand, to try to reason with boaters and explain that Posidonia is an important protected species.

Posidonia oceanica is one of the key species being studied by Eco Dive Volunteers assisting with the SILMAR Project. Our aims are;

To quantifying the current level of Posidonia oceanica destruction through regular observation and measurement.

To raise awareness of this situation via a poster and leaflet campaign aimed at pleasure boaters, marinas and yacht clubs.

3. Who are the main people/organisations involved

Kenna Eco Diving coordinates conservation research in the Posidonia oceanica ecosystem with the SILMAR Project, collating data with the help of volunteer divers who come from all over the world to spend a few weeks or months assisting with the project.

4. Where can I get more information

Theres more info on Posidonia oceanica on our volunteers website. Gaynor has written in-depth articles on Posidonia oceanica for the MARBEF Wiki:http://www.marbef.org/wiki/Mediterranean_seagrass_ecosystemandhttp://www.marbef.org/wiki/Posidonia_oceanica_%28Linnaeus%29_Delile.

You can also visit www.kennaecodiving.net, www.marine-life-costa-brava.org, www.silmar.org

5. What can I do?

You can join us as an Eco Dive volunteer and take part in data collection on the Posidonia pipefish and other threatened species within the Posidonia meadows. You can also help with our fundraising to support the poster campaign by doing your online shopping via this link on our website.

  1. Carme Palahí Cervera
    Jul 13, 2012

    Grcies per la feina.
    M’ha perms identificar un peix que no havia vist mai a la vida. Creia que era un nouvingut tropical.
    Sabeu si s gaire abundant a la Costa Brava centre?

  2. Tim Fenton
    Jul 30, 2012

    I have just returned from snorkelling in Levanzo (one of the Egadi islands that lie west of Sicily). I saw one of these pipefish that (as you describe so well) was pefectly camouflaged in the sea grass which seems in good condition in this part of the Med. However the section of the grass I saw the pipefish was actually white not green and the pipefish was also white, even its eyes! I don’t know why I spotted it really given the camouflage which reproduced the structure and texture of the grass perfectly (possibly because I am an angler!) and I had to look really hard to convince myself – only the movement of the gills gave it away.

    Is the white grass dying or is it just a phase?

  3. Gaynor Rosier
    Jul 30, 2012

    Gracias Carme. S, s una espcie molt abundant a la Posidnia est en bon estat, igual que algunes parts de la Costa Brava.

  4. Gaynor Rosier
    Jul 30, 2012

    Tim, the seagrass does become paler and greyish as many other organisms grow on it during the summer, providing food for other creatures. The pipefish will change its colour to blend in. Posidonia is deciduous and sheds most of its outer leaves in winter. Then it grows back fresh and green in springtime.