Fishing and other anthropogenic impacts have led to declines in many fish stocks and modification of the seabed. As a result, efforts to restore marine ecosystems have become increasingly focused on spatially explicit management methods to protect fish and the habitats they require for survival. This has led to a proliferation of investigations trying to map ‘habitats’ vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts and identify fish resource requirements in order to meet conservation and management needs. A wide range of habitat-related concepts, with different uses and understandings of the word ‘habitat’ itself has arisen as a consequence. Inconsistencies in terminology can cause confusion between studies, making it difficult to investigate and understand the ecology of fish and the factors that affect their survival. Ultimately, the inability to discern the relationships between fish and their environment clearly can hinder conservation and management measures for fish populations. This review identifies and addresses the present ambiguity surrounding definitions of ‘habitat’ and habitat-related concepts currently used in spatial management of demersal marine fish populations. The role of spatial and temporal scales is considered, in addition to examples of how to assess fish habitat for conservation and management purposes.
- marine ecosystems
- fish populations