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Paradigm shifts in fish conservation: moving to the ecosystem services concept


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Various factors constrain the existence and development of inland fishes and fisheries, such as pollution, habitat degradation, alien invasive species, local user conflicts, low social priority and inadequate research and funding. In many cases, however, degradation of the environment and loss of aquatic habitat are the predominant concerns for the conservation of freshwater aquatic biota. The need for concerted effort to prevent and reduce environmental degradation, as well as protection of freshwater fishes and fisheries as renewable common pool resources or entities in their own right, are the greatest challenges facing the conservation of fishes in inland waters. Unfortunately, traditional conservation practices such as regulation of exploitation, protected areas and habitat restoration have failed to arrest the alarming increase in number of threatened freshwater fish species worldwide. This paper examines the shifting paradigm of fisheries management from rule-based regulation, through fishery enhancement towards the ecosystem approach to fisheries, with reference to inland waters, and how the emerging concept of ecosystem services coupled with traditional fish conservation management practices, institutional restructuring and integrated management planning should provide a more sustainable thrust to formulation and promotion of fish conservation initiatives.