Relationships between estuarine habitats and coastal fisheries in Queensland, Australia
Worldwide, estuaries have been recognized as critical habitats for nearshore fish productivity through their capacity as nursery grounds and nutrient sources. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the importance of the habitat characteristics of estuaries to commercial fish catch in Queensland, Australia, with particular focus on the role of mangrove, saltmarsh, and seagrass habitats, and their connectivity. Traditionally, such analyses have taken the single-habitat approach, i.e., assessing the value of individual habitat types. Combined occurrence of these habitats and their collective accessibility may better explain the importance of estuaries to nekton. A literature review identifies the role of estuaries as integrated systems for fisheries. Our study provides strong supportive evidence for habitat-based, not species-based, management of fisheries in Queensland. Outcomes from preliminary analyses in Queensland suggest that collective spatial characteristics of estuarine habitats such as size and structural connectivity significantly correlate with fish catch data with r2 values > 0.7 for 17 commercial species groups. The catch of one quarter of the investigated species was best explained by the presence of mud- and sandflats. An exploration of currently available data on habitat distribution and fisheries catch shows the need to scrutinise their spatial and temporal accuracy, and how best to use them to understand estuarine-fisheries links. We conclude that structural connectivity of estuarine habitats is fundamental to the size of fish stocks and to optimizing the sustainable yield for commercial and recreational fishers.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2007-05-01
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