GELANG PATAH: Some 250 seahorses were released into the rich sea-grass beds of the Pulai rivermouth near here to replenish the species' declining number.
The seahorses were bred in captivity and had reached maturity after seven months at the breeding centre at the Fisheries Departments Brackishwater Aquaculture Research Centre here.
The project to breed seahorses was a joint effort between the centre and Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia (Kustem) in Terengganu.
Kustems marine biology lecturer and project manager Liew Hock Chark said the population of seahorses in the river was declining and re-stocking was necessary for their continued existence.
Last year, we conducted a research on the reproduction of the seahorses in their natural habitat and found that the river was abundant with copepods, a species of zooplankton which was the seahorses main food.
Then, in March, we began breeding the seahorses in captivity, whereby the brood stock were mated, said Liew, adding that some 400 seahorses were produced from the project.
Before releasing the seahorses back into the wild, each was colour-tagged with a special chemical dye visible to ultra-violet light.
Liew said his team of researchers would monitor the seahorses every month to determine their location and whether they were reproducing and adapting to the wild.
Liew said each male seahorse could produce between 200 to 300 fry in captivity and had a survival rate of 80%.
He said the high survival rate was because the fry were not exposed to predators and pollution, as they would have if they were in the wild.
After mating, female seahorses would deposit eggs into a brood pouch on the male seahorses body.
The male seahorse would then fertilise the eggs, which would hatch after three to six weeks.
Liew said there were plans to establish a seahorse park at Pulau Sibu Besar near Kota Tinggi and a feasibility study was being conducted.
Johor Fisheries Department director Abdul Hamid Yasin, who witnessed the release of the seahorses, said the Pulai river would be gazetted as an aquaculture industrial zone.
He said this meant the research centre would have more space to carry out work to conserve the marine life population in the area.
Abdul Hamid said because of the rich sea-grass beds, sea cows or dugongs were recently sighted in the area.