A WILDLIFE charity has called for visitors to the Dorset coast post-lockdown to take care because of the protected seahorse species found along the Jurassic Coast.

Neil Garrick-Maidment, executive director and founder of The Seahorse Trust, has called for visitors to take care when visiting the Dorset coast as lockdown measures ease.

In particular, he is concerned about the conservation of the protected seahorse population found in Studland Bay as more people continue to head to beauty spots along the coast such as Studland.

Mr Garrick-Maidment said: "There is a true and real fear that a huge influx of tourists will not be good for the natural world as we start to unlock and so we ask anybody visiting the area to please respect the natural beauty you have some to see," he said.

"Seahorses have made a remarkable come back during lockdown and the seagrass has shown great improvement to the damage it has sustained in previous years but this could easily be undone if people do not take care.

"Please if you visit areas where seahorses are, bear in mind Studland Bay is protected, the seagrass is protected and seahorses are protected. In fact if you are looking for seahorses you require a license from Maritime Management Organisation to do this.

"We fully understand the desperate need local businesses are in and we encourage everyone to support them but we also need to encourage visitors to this stunning area to protect and respect it."

As previously reported, seahorses have been thriving during lockdown, with the local population at a 12-year high in Studland Bay.

The Seahorse Trust found 16 seahorses in one dive earlier this year, including pregnant males and a juvenile which had been born this year.

This was the most found in one dive since the Trust began monitoring at the site in 2008. This was attributed to the fact that there has been fewer people, less boat traffic and associated noise and anchors in the area during the coronavirus lockdown.

Studland Bay was finally designated last year as a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in recognition of the importance of its seagrass habitat and its seahorse population. The legal aim of the MCZ is to return both seagrass and seahorses to ‘favourable conditions’.