Fishing ‘best argument for seagrass conservation’

Seagrass crab

The importance of seagrass is further emphasised in a new report that looks at how they underpin fishing worldwide.

These flowering plants, which grow in near-shore waters, are under intense pressure – some estimates suggest global losses are running at 7% a year. The grasses provide shelter and food for many sea creatures and that makes them a natural draw to fishers.

But Richard Unsworth and colleagues say this valuable resource will need better management if it is to be sustained.

Our study is really the first to show just how important seagrass meadows are to fishing,” explained the researcher from Swansea University in the UK.  “Wherever you get seagrasses, you get fishing, basically,” he told BBC News.

Seagrass meadows are found around every continent except Antarctica. The plants cycle nutrients, stabilise sediments, and – as photosynthesisers – act as a “sink” for carbon dioxide. They also provide nursery habitat for juvenile fish, which hide from predators among the stems.

However, the scale of the importance of the meadows to fisheries has been more supposition than fact because of a paucity of data on how they are actually used, according to Dr Unsworth.

His team set about correcting this by interviewing experts – including other scientists and fisheries managers – on what they were observing around the world.

The team also took in case studies covering all regions from the Philippines to Zanzibar, Indonesia, the Turks and Caicos Islands and locations in the Mediterranean. The picture that emerges is much the same everywhere.

Read the full article at BBC News and the research paper here.

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