In March, the Beauty Point Seahorse Farm celebrated 25 years since its commencement in 1998. It has weathered many challenges over this time and grown to be a well-known Tasmanian exporter and tourism product.
Originally called Seahorse Aquaculture, the business hoped to breed seahorses to supply to the Traditional Chinese medicine market where there is a high demand for them and wild populations were being impacted. Research and development was conducted for several years before it became apparent that costs of production reduced the feasibility of the proposal.
The company name was changed to Seahorse Australia and a small number of seahorses started to be sold to the local ornamental industry. Many people were keen to see what was going on in the breeding program and 2 tours per day began to be held. The potential for a tourism product was soon realized and Seahorse World was birthed, opening in late 2000 in a separate facility on the north end of Inspection Head Wharf.
However, the production farm continued to have problems and was sold to the Senior biologist Rachelle Hawkins and husband Craig in 2002. Over the next few years, much work was done to improve efficiencies, breed new species and market globally including trips to international trade shows in Singapore and Japan.
Eventually these paid off and sales to aquarium wholesalers, public aquariums and universities around the world started to flow. Seahorses are regularly sent to countries in Europe, Japan and South Korea but have also been sent to unexpected locations such as Guam and Brunei. As seahorses are listed on the international CITES register as endangered species, Seahorse Australia requires Federal Government export approvals and are currently the only operational farm in Australia and one of few in the world.
In 2010, the Seahorse World tourism facility was purchased by the Hawkins, bringing the whole operation back under the same banner. Year by year they have made improvements to the experience and have won 2 silver medals and a bronze at the Tasmanian Tourism Awards.
The experience showcases a real farm for seahorses and visitors are getting a behind-the-scenes look at a very different fish farming operation. This is part of the unique charm of Seahorse World which also shows other bizarre creatures from the waters around Tasmania, including one of the only places you can see the extremely rare Tasmanian Spotted Handfish. Seahorse World became part of the National Threatened Species Recovery Team for the Tasmanian Handfish in 2017 and was the first to successfully breed them in captivity, with some being released back to the wild soon after.
Seahorse World enjoys widespread support from the local community and employs 14 staff most of whom live in the local area. Owner, Rachelle Hawkins, who has been with the business the whole 25 years says she is still captivated by the seahorses and enjoys the challenges that such a different sort of occupation entails. If you have not visited yet, why not join a tour and learn more about these incredible creatures in your own backyard.