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Restoring Coastal Ecosystems from Fisheries and Aquaculture Impacts

By: , Posted on: February 16, 2016

Marine ecosystems cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface and are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. These ecosystems provide essential goods and services for human well-being (Costanza et al., 1997Wilson et al., 2005 and Beaumont et al., 2007). Some of these goods and services are easily recognized as they are directly used by humans, such as food, medicines, fuel, and energy, as well as education, recreation, and leisure (MA, 2003 and Beaumont et al., 2007). Although equally vital for humans, others are less apparent, such as gas and climate regulation, bioremediation of wastes, flood and storm protection, and nutrient cycling (Hiscock et al., 2006 and Beaumont et al., 2007). Although the relationship between marine biodiversity and ecosystem services is still poorly understood (Sala and Knowlton, 2006), there is evidence that most of these goods and services are intrinsically related to biodiversity; consequently, the maintenance of their provision may depend on biodiversity conservation (Sala and Knowlton, 2006Beaumont et al., 2007Austen et al., 2008 and Cook et al., 2008). However, marine ecosystems have been increasingly threatened by the exponential growth of different anthropogenic activities (e.g., dam construction, fisheries, and aquaculture), which are currently the strongest drivers of change in marine biodiversity at all levels of organization (Sala and Knowlton, 2006). In an attempt to mitigate the adverse ecological effects of these activities in estuaries and adjacent coastal areas and as advocated by the ecohydrological approach, it is of utmost importance to augment the ecosystem’s carrying capacity in order to more rapidly absorb some of the deleterious impacts of commercial activities in those areas (e.g., Zalewski and Welcomme, 2001Chícharo and Chícharo, 2006 and Wolanski et al., 2008).

Fishing is the most widespread human activity in the marine environment (Jennings and Kaiser, 1998), and is probably the main anthropogenic driver of ecosystem alterations by inducing changes in fish populations and communities and changes in the pathways of energy transfer and by disturbing and destructing the seafloor habitats (e.g., Jennings et al., 2001Choi et al., 2004 and Zhang et al., 2009). Although it is recognized that fishing may directly or indirectly affect all ecosystem components, fisheries management worldwide has focused on the single-species approach (Turner et al., 1999Pinnegar et al., 2000 and Gavaris, 2009), thereby ignoring their potential cascade impacts.

The aquaculture industry is undergoing a rapid worldwide expansion to fulfill the shortfall between the ever-increasing world’s demand for seafood and decreasing availability of wild stocks due to the overexploitation and collapse of several fisheries worldwide (Gang et al., 2005FAO, 2006 and Worm et al., 2006). With an average annual growth rate of 6.9%, aquaculture is, nowadays, the fastest growing animal food-producing sector in the world (FAO, 2009). However, like fishing, aquaculture may also have adverse effects on the ecosystems such as habitat modification and loss, organic enrichment, changes in biodiversity, eutrophication, chemical contamination, spread of diseases and parasites, and introduction of exotic species (e.g., Cabello, 2006Mente et al., 2006Cao et al., 2007Johnson, 2007Cook et al., 2008Cross et al., 2008Holmer et al., 2008aHolmer et al., 2008bTett, 2008Diana, 2009Johnston and Roberts, 2009 and Subasinghe et al., 2009).

The wide range of environmental impacts associated with both activities can be magnified by the hierarchical complexity inherent to the marine ecosystems. This reinforces the need for a holistic approach in the management of fisheries and aquaculture, in order to encompass the essential processes, functions, and interactions among organisms and their environment. In this way, the knowledge of the direct and collateral impacts of fishing and aquaculture on the ecosystems is a key issue aiming at their preservation.

As a result of fishing and/or aquaculture activities, a wide range of ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds, kelp forests, and coral reefs have been severely affected leading to ecosystem changes and consequently to alterations in the services they provide. As the degradation of marine ecosystems has been so pervasive (Botsford et al., 1997 and Jackson et al., 2001b) in recent years, efforts are being made toward both the mitigation of fishing and aquaculture impacts and the restoration of natural resources, habitats, and services.

Figures 1 & 2 are two Schematic representations of the main impacts of fisheries and aquaculture on coastal ecosystems

Figure 1
Figure 1: Schematic representation of the main interactions and impacts resulting from fishing activities in estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Symbols: courtesy of the Integration and Application Network,, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.


Figure 2.
Figure 2: Schematic representation of the main interactions and impacts resulting from aquaculture activities in estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Symbols: courtesy of the Integration and Application Network,, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Read more in the chapter Restoring Coastal Ecosystems from Fisheries and Aquaculture Impacts

treatise on estuarine and coastal science

This excerpt was taken from the chapter Restoring Coastal Ecosystems from Fisheries and Aquaculture Impacts which describes both the foremost ecosystems impacts resulting from fisheries and aquaculture and the measures that have been adopted worldwide to minimize their adverse ecological effects. The chapter is included in Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science, a 12-volume set which examines our estuaries and coasts, from the inland watershed to the ocean shelf. This authoritative work focuses on the physical, biological, chemistry, ecosystem, human, ecological and economics processes, to show how to best use multidisciplinary science to ensure earth’s sustainability. Written by a team of international expert scientists, under the guidance of Editors-in-Chief Eric Wolanski and Donald McClusky, the Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science explores topics in depth, and aims to provide a comprehensive scientific resource for all professionals and students in the area of estuarine and coastal science.

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