(Washington, D.C.) -- Restoring and expanding coastal and estuarine habitat leads to increases in fish populations, which have a positive impact on the communities and the industries that depend on thriving and sustainable fisheries.
A report released today by Restore America's Estuaries (RAE) and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and co-authored with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - More Habitat Means More Fish - makes a powerful case that investing in our nation's coastlines and estuaries leads to healthy habitat and strong fisheries, which has a positive impact on the businesses and industries, both recreational and commercial, that need healthy fisheries to survive and thrive.
The full report, More Habitat Means More Fish, is available via the RAE and ASA websites.
Among the findings are:
Over 75 percent of our nation's commercial fish catch and 80-90 percent of the recreational fish catch depend on key estuary habitat at some point in their lifecycle.
Fish populations can respond quickly to habitat improvement and the impact will last over an extended period of time. Rebounds in fish populations can occur within months and persist for years.
In San Francisco Bay, restored salt marshes have improved 41 fish species including steelhead trout, Pacific herring, green sturgeon and Chinook salmon.
Since 2000, in Massachusetts and New York, herring, shad and sturgeon have doubled and tripled in population due to habitat restoration projects. Just two years after a single culvert was repaired connecting Bride Brook to Long Island Sound, the herring population more than tripled from 75,000 to 287,000.
An oyster reef restoration project in Alabama increased populations of several economically-important species, including blue crab, red drum, spotted seatrout, and flounder.
"Investing in coastal and estuarine habitat restoration is essential not only for the long-term future of our fisheries but also because it helps support economies and communities through the recreational and commercial fishing industries," said Jeff Benoit, President and CEO of Restore America's Estuaries. "In order to have fish, we have to have healthy habitat. If we want more fish, we need more healthy habitat."
American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman noted, "As an industry, we are keenly aware of the impact that sportfishing has on our nation's habitat restoration efforts. In many ways, America's anglers are the nation's most powerful force for conserving our nation's fisheries and waters, investing more than $1 billion dollars each year in fisheries management and conservation through taxes on fishing equipment and state fishing license sales."
The report notes that strategic habitat restoration is required, particularly in an era of shrinking budgets. "The big challenges that fisheries face are increasingly habitat challenges. Without healthy habitat, we cannot sustain the fisheries that will feed Americans now and into the future," said Eric C. Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries.
–– Source: Restore America's Estuaries