The importance of estuarine and coastal areas for the migration of fish and recovery of populations
Estuaries and coastal areas are subject to anthropogenic activities, as the largest harbours and economic activities are located along river banks and close to shore. Known to have a high habitat diversity, estuaries and coastal areas play a key role in the life cycle of many organisms, including diadromous and marine fish. As such, these areas can serve as transport routes, foraging or nursery areas. In order to conserve these areas in a cost-efficient and sustainable way, a better understanding of the ecosystem functions and services is needed. The Western Scheldt estuary and adjacent coastal area of Belgium are an important migration route and resident area for diadromous and marine fish. We selected Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and European eel (Anguilla anguilla) as two economic important indicator species for resp. marine and diadromous fish species, in order to assess the importance of estuarine and coastal areas as a key habitat for these species. The results of this study will be useful for management measures for the conservation and restoration of the eel and cod stocks.