Recreational Fisheries as Conservation Tools for Mangrove Habitats
Aaron J. Adams and Karen J. Murchie
Abstract.—Mangrove habitats are among the most threatened coastal habitats. Loss and degradation of mangroves have broad impacts because mangroves are important in prevention of coastal erosion, are excellent at carbon sequestration, and are critical habitats for many marine and estuarine fishes, including coral reef species. However, these species often lack the economic importance or charismatic characteristics to leverage conservation of mangrove habitats. Recent and ongoing research is demonstrating the importance of mangrove habitats to economically important recreational fish species that, in conjunction with reports on the economic impact of these fisheries, provides leverage for mangrove conservation. Two recreational fish species—Common Snook Centropomus undecimalis and Tarpon Megalops atlanticus—depend on mangrove habitats for one or more of their life stages. Two other species— Bonefish Albula vulpes and Barramundi Lates calcarifer—are concurrent with mangroves. Each species supports fisheries with annual economic impacts of hundreds of millions of dollars and a large constituency of users. The combination of biological and economic research on these and other recreational fish species can be used as tools for mangrove conservation, adding a much needed boost to coastal conservation efforts and providing protection to many ecologically important but less charismatic species.