Seahorse sculpture unveiled in Studland amid plans to protect its habitat

As moves progress to restore the seahorse’s natural environment in Studland Bay, a local artist has created an eye-catching seahorse sculpture for a Studland resident.

Sculptor Eilidh Middleton was commissioned to create the five foot spiny seahorse after her work was spotted in October 2020, when she kayaked across Swanage Bay towing a huge fish installation behind her.

The objective then was to deliver a message to half term holiday makers about the tragic consequences of overfishing our seas.

Seahorse sculpture in garden

“Creating this amazing sculpture”

After reading the story on Swanage.News, Studland resident Virginia Lynch got in touch with Eilidh. She said:

“We’d just finished landscaping the garden and had this round circle of paving and needed something in the middle of it, so when I saw Eilidh’s giant fish, I contacted her.

“It turned out to be a really good thing for both of us during lockdown, as it’s been such great fun creating this amazing sculpture and Eilidh’s involved me in the whole process.”

The Disappearing Fish installation at Swanage Beach
Disappearing Fish installation illuminated on the wall of the Mowlem

Eilidh Middleton and her giant fish installation that was later displayed on the wall of The Mowlem in Swanage

Controversial issue

Eilidh Middleton said:

“My first thoughts were to draw inspiration from the seaside location and that sparked ideas about the marine environment and its habitat. The more I researched, the more I found out about the spiny seahorse, the seagrass that grows on the seafloor and its importance to Studland.

“However at first I didn’t realise just how controversial an issue it is to the village!”

Seahorse sculpture
eilidh middleton
Seahorse sculpture in garden

Studland Bay has been designated as a Marine Conservation Zone

In May 2019 the government formally designated Studland Bay as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) partly due to the presence of seahorses and seagrass – the seahorse’s natural environment.

Before any further action could be taken, the coronavirus pandemic meant there was no further progression. However all marine activities had been stopped by government restrictions and the Seahorse Trust found evidence that the seagrass and the seahorse population naturally flourished during lockdown.

Dog on South Beach in Studland

South Beach in Studland in summer 2020

Public consultation on management of marine activities

At the end of 2020, the government agency, Marine Management Organisation, held a public consultation on how marine activities like boating should be managed in Studland Bay to protect the environment.

After reviewing all the information it decided that for mooring, powerboating, sailing, diving and snorkelling, no further restrictions would be implemented at this stage. But for anchoring, management measures may be required to avoid negative impacts on the site.

No anchoring zone to the south of Studland Bay

It is now considering three options which all include creating a no anchoring zone to the south of Studland Bay. This is because some say when anchors are dropped onto the seabed they uproot seagrass, destroying the seahorse’s habitat.

However some boat owners are unhappy that they may not be able to drop anchor in future near South Beach and dispute the extent of damage caused by anchors to the seagrass.

A decision is expected soon.

Seahorse sculpture lit up
eilidh middleton
Seahorse sculpture in progress
eilidh middleton

“I hope it’s a conversation piece and gets people talking”

The spiny seahorse sculpture is made of mild steel along its spine which will rust to become a deeper and richer colour. It is patched with copper to give it green/blue tones and it lights up at night.

Eilidh Middleton added:

“We felt we needed to get the light to seep out of the seahorse. At night it looks like it is alive with a red glow along its spine!

“I hope it’s a conversation piece and gets people talking. During my research I discovered that seagrass helps tackle the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide faster than a rainforest, so we really need more of it.

“Seahorses are extraordinary creatures and so exotic. They’re found all over the world so having them here in Studland is very amazing.”

Seahorse sculpture in garden with sculptor

Eilidh Middleton with her creation

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