Scientific research has provided the first quantitative global evidence of the significant role that seagrass meadows play in supporting world fisheries productivity. The study entitled 'Seagrass meadows support global fisheries production' published in Conservation Letters, provides evidence that a fifth of the world's biggest fisheries, such as Atlantic Cod and Walleye Pollock are reliant on healthy seagrass meadows. The study also demonstrates the prevalence of seagrass associated fishing globally.
The study, carried out in partnership with Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth at Cardiff University and Dr Lina Mtwana Nordlund at Stockholm University, demonstrates for the first time that seagrasses should be recognised and managed to maintain and maximise their role in global fisheries production.
Dr Cullen-Unsworth said: "The chasm that exists between coastal habitat conservation and fisheries management needs to be filled to maximise the chances of seagrass meadows supporting fisheries, so that they can continue to support human wellbeing."
Seagrasses are marine flowering plants that form extensive meadows in shallow seas on all continents except Antarctica. The distribution of seagrass, from the intertidal to about 60m depth in clear waters, makes seagrass meadows an easily exploitable fishing habitat.
Dr Unsworth said: "Seagrass meadows support global fisheries productivity by providing nursery habitat for commercial fish stocks such as tiger prawns, conch, Atlantic cod and white spotted spinefoot."
The authors also explain how seagrasses support fisheries in adjacent and deep water habitats, by creating expansive fishery habitat rich in fauna, and by providing trophic support to adjacent fisheries. Seagrasses are also described to support fisheries by promoting the health of connected habitats (e.g. Coral reefs).
The research article examined the links between seagrass and fisheries and the need for an integrated approach to their management governed at local, regional and international levels. The research presents a series of policy-relevant observations and recommendations that recognise the role of seagrass in global fisheries.
Dr Unsworth said: "The coastal distribution of seagrass means it is vulnerable to a multitude of both land and sea based threats, such as land runoff, coastal development, boat damage and trawling. There is a global rapid decline of seagrass and when seagrass is lost there is strong evidence globally that fisheries and their stocks often become compromised with profound negative economic consequences. To make a change, awareness of seagrasses role in global fisheries production must pervade the policy sphere. We urge that seagrass requires targeted management to maintain and maximise their role in global fisheries production."
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