FAO.org

Home > Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission > Publications > Detail
Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission

A review of mangrove and seagrass ecosystems and their linkage to fisheries and fisheries management

Category Ecosystems, habitats, environments & climate change

In the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, mangrove and seagrass habitats provide habitat for a wide range of species and plants, for some or all of their lifecycle. Many of these species are exploited for food and are the target of both artisanal and commercial fisheries. Mangroves provide a wide range of ecosystem services which are incidental to fisheries production, but important to coastal environments and the livelihoods of coastal populations. Mangroves provide a diverse range of fishery products, seed stock for some forms of aquaculture, forest products, timber and wildlife. The non-fishery ecosystem services of mangroves can include erosion control, mitigation of pollution and protection from storm or tsunami events.

There is a widely held perception that mangrove and seagrass habitats underpin fish and shrimp fishery production by acting as a nursery habitat for commercially important fisheries species. However, the decline or degradation of these habitats and their apparent role in the lifecycle of fish and invertebrates gives rise to the question as to why large cumulative losses of these habitats have not been matched by commensurate declines in fishery production of these commercial species.

This review brings together the findings in the scientific literature on the extent of mangrove and seagrass habitat and any relationships they may have to fisheries production. In doing so, it reveals that some popular perceptions regarding the role of mangroves and seagrass in fisheries production may be overstated or incorrectly interpreted. The review also finds that the linkages between fisheries and mangrove or seagrass vary both according to species and life stage and needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. This does not diminish the value of mangrove and seagrass habitats and emphasizes the need for a more holistic approach to the management of coastal environments and the fisheries within them. This approach must adequately take into account the complexity and interactions between adjoining habitats, and the overarching need to manage fishing activity, especially fishing effort.

This review provides an excellent overview of our state of knowledge of how mangrove and seagrass habitats interact with fisheries and concludes with recommendations on where our knowledge must be strengthened. In particular, the review concludes that studies on species specific life histories, and on the ecological connectivity between adjacent biotopes, are needed to clarify more explicitly the nature of any relationship between mangrove and seagrass habitats and fish or shrimp populations. It is expected that further studies using more sophisticated methods and statistical techniques will clarify more explicitly the nature of any relationship between mangrove and seagrass habitats and fish populations. 

Saenger, P., Gartside, D., & Funge-Smith, S. 2012. A review of mangrove and seagrass ecosystems and their linkage to fisheries and fisheries management. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, RAP Publication 2013/09, 74 pp.