The Weedy Seadragon

Marine State Faunal Emblem for Victoria

Illustration of the weedy seadragon with seaweed background

A process to select a new marine State faunal emblem was conducted in 2002. The process was designed to raise awareness, and to involve and inspire people.

It included:

the appointment of an expert panel of local marine scientists and educators led by the Department of Sustainability and Environment/Department of Primary Industries Chief Scientist, Sir Gus Nossal, to provide advice and assistance to the Government

preparation of a shortlist of nine suitable candidates based on criteria agreed to by the expert panel

a six week public consultation period for Victorians to express their preference from the shortlist or suggest an alternative candidate which met the selection criteria, and

recommendation of a candidate by the expert panel after consideration of the public response.

The panel consisted of representatives from the Australian Marine Science Association, Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, Marine and Coastal Community Network, Marine Education Society of Australasia, Museum Victoria, Victorian Coastal Council, Victorian Fisheries Co- Management Council and the Young Victorian of the Year, 2002.

The criteria developed by the panel included that the animal should: live its whole life in the marine environment; be found only in southern Australian waters; be native to and spend most of its life in Victorian waters; be widely distributed (not a threatened species) and valued for its natural characteristics. To help Victorians decide, a public awareness campaign was undertaken, including distribution through the press and to all Victorian schools, of colourful posters featuring the emblem candidates. An aquarium at the Department's 2002 Melbourne Show stand featured live examples. People could register their nomination online, in person at selected marine education and other outlets, or by mail.

24, 018 nominations were received, and the greatest number favoured the Weedy Seadragon. The panel recommended the Weedy Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), and it was proclaimed as Victorian Marine Emblem by the Governor on October 31, 2002.

These beautifully coloured, dainty and timid animals are part of the Syngnathidae family. They swim slowly and gracefully over kelp forests and seagrass meadows where they shelter. Growing up to 45cm, long leaf-shaped appendages along the top and bottom of the body provide perfect camouflage.

The new Victorian marine emblem can be seen hovering around piers and seagrass beds around the State. With a snorkel you can observe them in many of the new Marine National Parks and Marine Sanctuaries along the coast. They are very delicate and easily damaged if handled.

Weedy Seadragons as part of the Syngnathidae family are declared Protected Aquatic Biota under the Victorian Fisheries Act 1995.