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The plight of the endemic weedy seadragon

Project Member(s): Klanten, O., Booth, D.

Funding or Partner Organisation: Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc (Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation (SWRRFI) Research Project)

Start year: 2016

Summary: The species in this project, Phyllopteryx taeniolatus is endemic to southern (temperate) Australian waters. It occurs along the New South Wales (NSW) coast as far north as Port Stephens (north of Sydney) and south along the coast of Victoria, east and west coast of Tasmania, South Australia, and southern coast of Western Australia (Great Australian Bight). This iconic and charismatic species is of global interest, and has been targeted for Aquarium trade placed under protection under the Australian Commonwealth┬┐s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act in 1999. Our aim is to determine the population structure of seadragons in NSW, particular in the Sydney region, and determine the level of their genetic diversity. If low levels of genetic diversity are observed, the resilience of the species to anthropogenic stressors (e.g. habitat degradation, increased sea surface temperature, pollution and urchin barrens) will be greatly reduced, thus truly endangering this iconic and endemic species. Information on population structure will provide and assist government agencies to implement conservation and management policies for this iconic species. The status of Phyllopteryx taeniolatus on the IUCN Red List is `Near Threatened┬┐ since 2006 and is also recorded as `Data Deficient┬┐. It is protected in Australia by the Australian Commonwealth Act (EPBC) since 1999 and has also been protected in NSW since 1994 (Fisheries Management Act), in Victoria under the Victorian Fisheries Act since 1995.

Keywords: seadragons, abundance, conservation

FOR Codes: Ecological Impacts of Climate Change, Environment not elsewhere classified