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Recreational Fishing Brings Salt Marsh Die-off

June 14, 2012
Food, glorious food

Salt marshes act as nurseries, supporting stocks of many economically important species. But marsh grasses are also food for the Sesarma crab, a marsh grass predator whose booming numbers are damaging the salt marsh ecosystem. Credit: Bertness Lab/Brown University

Postdoc Andrew Altieri worked with a team of researchers, including Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department chair Mark Bertness, to determine why salt marshes are rapidly declining along Cape Cod.

Recreational fishing is major contributor because it strips top predators such as striped bass, blue crabs, and smooth dogfish out of the ecosystem, according to new research by Brown University ecologists.

With far fewer predators in areas where recreational fishing is prevalent, native Sesarma crabs have had relatively free rein to eat salt marsh grasses, causing the ecosystem to collapse, saus Bertness. He led a series of experiments and measurements published online in the journal Ecology that he said unavoidably implicate recreational fishing in marsh die-off.

Read more about dying salt marshes and why are they vitally important to our coastlines in David Orenstein's article.