RARE seahorses will be protected from pleasure boats which destroy their natural habitat, it has been announced.

The coastline off Studland will fall into one of six new designated Marine Conservation Zones in Dorset. The move means boat owners won't be able to drop anchors and chains in the area, which can lead to the destruction of seagrass, the habitat of the spiny seahorse.

Dr Simon Cripps. chief executive of the Dorset Wildlife Trust said designation of the six sites will allow important features to recover from trawling and dredging.

As a result, marine wildlife such as black bream, seahorses and peacock’s tail seaweed will continue to thrive.

The aim of the zones nationally is to create a ‘blue-belt’ of protected places across England.

In Dorset, protected areas are:

  • Albert Field
  • Purbeck Coast
  • South of Portland
  • Southbourne Rough
  • Studland Bay
  • West of Wight-Barfleur

The areas cover a wide range of underwater habitats, from deep, tide-swept rocky cliffs to sheltered seagrass meadows.

"This week's announcement is a fantastic win for both marine conservation and all those who earn a living from the sea as it is an important step to help restore the health and productivity of our seas,2 Dr Cripps said.

"In particular, we are delighted that Studland Bay has been designated as part of a network of protection, as we have for many years led the push for its inclusion into the network.

"If properly managed, these Marine Conservation Zones will help protect marine life and livelihoods for years to come.”

Studland Bay is home to both species of native seahorse and all five species of pipefish. It is also a nursery area for a number of commercial finfish, including pollack, black bream and bass.