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Essential fish habitats (EFH)

Conclusions from a workshop on the importance, mapping, monitoring, threats and conservation of coastal EFH in the Baltic Sea

image of Essential fish habitats (EFH)

Many fish species in the Baltic Sea are dependent on shallow and sheltered near-shore habitats for their spawning, nursery, feeding and migration. Still, the role of these essential fish habitats, EFH, for the development and support for fish production has received little attention. As coastal EFH often are found in areas heavily impacted by humans, they are subject to many threats and therefore management needs are urgent. EFH also provide and support important ecosystem services and are included in national/international agreements and legislative acts. Despite this, the conservation status of EFH is generally poor in the region. Due to these shortcomings and needs, a workshop was set up to review the importance and protection of as well as threats to coastal EFH in the Baltic Sea. This report describes the outcome of the workshop and future directions for work in this research area.

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Summary

Many fish species in the Baltic Sea are highly dependent on shallow and sheltered coastal habitats that they use for spawning, nursery, feeding and migration. Still, the role of these essential fish habitats (EFH) for the development and support of fish stocks and communities has received relatively little attention, even though there is general consensus among scientists about their critical importance. Little is also known about the major threats to EFH, and their conservation status in different countries has previously not been reviewed. As EFH often are found in the same parts of the coastal zone that are also highly valued by humans, this gap in knowledge needs to be addressed. Hence, there is an urgent need to focus more thoroughly on the importance, mapping, monitoring and protection of EFH and also the driving factors and mechanisms behind the changes we observe in their status. Only this way, we will be able to predict and mitigate future effects of environmental change in these valuable habitats and to create adaptive management plans.

English

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