Seahorse discovered in Studland Bay for first time in three years
A protected seahorse has been spotted in an area off Dorset for the first time in almost three years.
In 2008, about 40 spiny seahorses were recorded in Studland Bay, but none had been spotted there since early 2015 until this summer.
The Seahorse Trust, which found the lone female, described it as "very exciting".
It added only a total of 14 of the UK's spiny and short snouted species had been recorded off the UK this year.
Both species have been protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 since 2008 - which prevents them being killed, injured or taken.
Neil Garrick-Maidment, director of the Seahorse Trust which carries out two surveys a month at Studland, said the seahorse discovered there had been given the name "Hope".
"Hopefully, she is a sign of things to come," he added.
The Seahorse Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust have previously said boat moorings are damaging the seagrass bed habitats at Studland by "dragging and scouring" the seabed.
The bay was previously recommended as a Marine Conservation Zone but not selected. There are currently 50 in waters off England, with 23 designated last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
It is now considering a third round, but did not give further details.
Mr Garrick-Maidment said a designation for Studland would ensure the future preservation of the seagrass beds and seahorses.