The tragedy of seagrass meadows and their fisheries

Urgent action is required to stem the loss of the world’s seagrass meadows, to protect their associated fisheries.

Writing in the journal Fish & Fisheries, Dr Richard Unsworth of Swansea University (together with colleagues at Cardiff University and Stockholm University) examines the global extent to which these meadows of underwater plants support fishing activity.

“Wherever seagrass exists in proximity to people, our research finds that it’s used as a key targeted fishing habitat,” said Dr Unsworth, who is based at Swansea University’s Biosciences department.

“Our research is, for the first time, recording how globally extensive the use of seagrass meadows as a fishery habitat is. In developing countries, this activity tends to have a major significance for daily food supply and general livelihoods. In developed countries, the role of this activity is more for recreation or species-specific targeted fisheries (eg, clams).”

Dr Nordlund, from Stockholm University, added: “The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet their loss continues at an accelerating rate. Now there is growing evidence globally that many fisheries associated to seagrass are unrecorded, unreported and unmanaged, leading to a tragedy of the seagrass commons.”

In their article, the researchers highlight that because of their nearshore, shallow water distribution in sheltered environments, seagrass meadows make great places to fish in all conditions. This leads to high intensity of fishing effort, often all year round.

Read the full article at Fishing News and access the research paper here.

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