FIle photo: A spiny seahorse. Photo: Wikimedia

The world’s largest seahorse has been found in British waters, sparking fresh hope for the endangered creatures.

The spiny seahorse, measuring 13-inches from its snout to the tip of its tail, was caught in a net by Michael Bailey while he was out fishing for mullet in Poole Harbour, Dorset.

Experts say the specimen is around twice the average size, smashing the existing record by almost 2-inches.

The seahorse hooked its tail round Bailey’s net and clung to it as he and crewmate Malcolm Glover hauled their catch in.

Bailey, 47, said: ‘We see around 30 seahorses a year but there was something very special about this one.

‘It was enormous in comparison to the ones we get normally and so I phoned Neil [Garrick-Maidment] from the Seahorse Trust straight away. He asked me to measure and photograph it, log where we caught it and then put it back. It was only when we got back to shore that Neil told me it was the biggest seahorse ever caught in the wild, anywhere in the world.

‘It’s not a record I was expecting to have but it’s fantastic news for the species.’

The spiny seahorse grows throughout its lifespan – normally about 12 years. But Garrick-Maidment said: ‘I think this one could be up to 14 or 16 years old and that is why it is so large. It is an incredible find, especially in British waters.’

Off the UK coast, numbers of seahorses – which can camouflage by changing colour – are said to be dwindling due to the destruction of eelgrass beds ideal for breeding.

They are also under threat from the Chinese medicine industry which uses powdered seahorse to treat baldness and impotence. – Daily Mail