Fish and invertebrates are dynamic members of aquatic ecosystems worldwide. From freshwater habitats to the deep sea, fish and invertebrates have the ability to connect ecosystems and habitats through long-distance migrations and energy transfers via food webs. They provide ecosystem services that range from ensuring food security for humans and protecting young corals from algal overgrowth, to removing excess phytoplankton from nutrient-enriched waters. Understanding the biology, ecology and ecosystem requirements of fish and invertebrates is important for creating and maintaining sustainable, productive and healthy ecosystems.
Fishery harvests from wild-caught or aquaculture-raised fish and invertebrates have increased at twice the rate of human population growth, and represent an increasing protein source for people across the globe. But human populations have become increasingly concentrated along coastlines, putting pressure on coastal and marine ecosystems through changes in environmental quality and ecosystem function. In addition, centuries of unsustainable fishing practices have reduced many wild fisheries stocks and degraded habitats. Maintaining productive and healthy fisheries in the face of these human-induced pressures will require scientific research that increases the understanding of socioeconomic, regulatory and ecological factors influencing the sustainability of fished populations and their ecosystems.
What factors contribute towards healthy fish and invertebrate populations? How do these factors contribute towards healthy and productive ecosystems? What factors contribute to fishery successes, as well as failures? SERC scientists are studying how all three of these questions intersect in order to help national and international policymakers develop management practices for rebuilding and sustaining healthy and productive ecosystems and fisheries throughout the world.