Whether for recreation or sustenance, seagrass proves vital to fishing around the globe

Published: Nov. 17, 2017 at 2:29 PM

Brooks Hays

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- New research reveals the importance seagrass plays as host to fishing activity.

When scientists looked at seagrasses and marine meadows around the globe, they found high levels of fishing activity are constant.

The research -- published this week in the journal Fish & Fisheries -- suggests scientists need to consider how to protect and manage seagrass ecosystems in order to promote healthier, more sustainable fisheries.

"If there is seagrass and people there is most certainly fishing," Lina Mtwana Nordlund, an ecologist at Stockholm University in Sweden, said in a news release. "It doesn't matter if it is a country with high or low human development, fishing occurs. But the reasons for fishing and the target species vary."

In less developed nations, seagrass tends to host subsistence fishing. Those fishing aren't usually targeting a specific species. Instead, they're trying to catch whatever's available, whether to feed their own family or sell to their neighbors.

In more developed nations, seagrass tends to host recreational fishing. Those fishing are typically targeting specific species.

In both lesser and more developed nations, marine meadows host all kinds of fishing techniques and equipment.

"The ecological value of seagrass meadows is irrefutable, yet their loss continues at an accelerating rate," warned Dr. Richard Unsworth, a researcher Swansea University. "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."

Researchers hope their work will inspire conservationists and policy makers to take steps to better protect shallow-water ecosystems where seagrass grows.

"Seagrass meadows are being damaged and degraded globally and urgent action is needed to stem the loss of seagrass meadows," said Mtwana Nordlund. "Their importance as a key fishing ground is yet another reason why we need to start appreciating the value of seagrass."

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