New research led by an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient, Dr Chris Brown of Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, has found that protecting fish habitats is critical to recovering the world’s fisheries.

It had previously been estimated that 31% of fish stocks globally are over-exploited, meaning that catches could be higher if fishing pressure was reduced. The study reviewed the habitat requirements for fish stocks across the globe and found that these previous estimates ignored the effects of habitat loss on the productivity of fisheries. In fact, nearly half of the world’s best researched fish stocks are using habitats that are in decline, like seagrass and mangroves.

Dr Brown says that the work is significant because overfishing is often seen as the only cause of decline in the productivity of fisheries, which implies stricter fisheries regulations are the sole solution to overfishing. Restoration of critical fish habitats such as mangroves, seagrass, and floodplains will also help to increase the resilience of fish populations against overfishing.

Research has looked at how protecting or restoring lost habitats can improve the status of fisheries, so that the fisheries can sustainably support higher catches.

Image: Mangrove half and half with fish and jellyfish.