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Seagrass meadows are reliable places to catch food

Seagrass provides a large and reliable catch of fish and invertebrates in Puttalam Lagoon, Sri Lanka. Credit: Susanta Udagedara

A new study shows that the seagrass fishery provides strong insurance for the poor as fishermen believe these habitats support large catches of fish over time. Surprisingly, even more so than coral reef fishing, which people usually associate with small-scale fishing.

Seagrass meadows are commonly used as habitat for anglers in the Indo-Pacific to support millions of households, providing fish and other animals with food and fishing income. New research in Ocean and Coastal Management investigated how and why households use seagrass meadows in Cambodia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in the Indo-Pacific region by conducting interviews asking which habitats they used and preferred.

Benjamin Jones, director of the marine conservation and research organization Project Seagrass and Ph.D. a student at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plants at Stockholm University, says that “algae was the most common habitat used for fishing. Almost half of all the households we spoke with preferred to fish for seaweed over other habitats such as corals, mangroves, and the open ocean. , dirt and stones, for example. This was surprising because most people consider the reef fishery to be a key tropical small-scale fishery, but we show that it is actually a seaweed fishery that is much more common in households.”

Seagrass meadows are reliable places to catch food

A fisherman collects sea urchins from shallow seagrass meadows in Indonesia. Credit: Benjamin Jones/Stockholm University.

When the researchers asked fishermen why they prefer algae, they expressed a general sense of security: kelp meadows always produce a large catch, and there are always fish and invertebrates. This is likely due to the ecological role that kelp meadows play for fish. They provide valuable hatchery habitat with plenty of places for fish to hide and grow, meaning that large numbers of fish are often present.

The study also found that 3 out of 20 people in the region relied on seagrass meadows as their fishing grounds and did not fish anywhere else. A survey of households in 147 villages also found that dependency on seagrass meadows was highly dependent on household income:

“Household income had two different effects. On the one hand, poorer households were less likely to own motorboats. They depended on seaweed as they couldn’t fish anywhere else, the seaweed is close to the shore and easy to get to without a motor. On the other hand, on the other hand, wealthier households are more likely to own certain types of fishing gear that encourage them to use seaweed due to high rewards and little effort. These were static fishing fences that did not require the presence of a fisherman,” says Benjamin Jones.

Seagrass meadows are reliable places to catch food

A static fish fence, known locally as a “gray”, costs about $400 to set up, but once installed, it continues to fish all day every day, providing a reliable catch for those who can afford tackle. Photo: Benjamin Jones.

Study co-author Lynn Cullen-Unsworth, Project Seagrass, says: “Our findings highlight the need for household-scale empirical evidence for kelp grassland management. People use and value algae for a variety of reasons, so algae conservation is vital to ensure that we always have fair and equitable access to the resources that seagrass provides.”


Seagrasses are key fisheries around the world.


Additional Information:
Benjamin L. H. Jones et al., Dependence on Seaweed Fishing as Determined by Household Income and Adaptive Capacity, Ocean and Coastal Management (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2022.106247

Courtesy of Stockholm University.


Quote: Seagrass Meadows Are Reliable Fishing Grounds (June 15, 2022) Retrieved June 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-seagrass-meadows-reliable-fishing-grounds.html .

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