ESTUARIES around the world have come under ever increasing pressure over the last century due to human population growth and its associated coastal development. Indeed, in most industrialised countries, degradation of water quality has played a massive role in the decline of estuarine productivity. Fisheries production is one of the first areas to suffer as critical fish spawning and nursery habitats are degraded or destroyed due to catchment clearing, and runoff from agriculture and urbanised areas. These changes interrupt the lifecycle of fishes and play havoc with natural food chains, often simplifying and shrinking the bottom end of the food chain leading to reduced food availability for larval or juvenile fishes at critical stages of their lifecycle. Because of this, an emphasis on restoration of estuary habitats has become an important theme in places like the USA, where scientists in the 1970’s and 80’s linked some fisheries declines with large losses of habitat, particularly seagrasses, saltmarsh and shellfish reefs.
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