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The fish reviewed in this document are all Pacific Northwest species which depend on estuaries*, wetlands, or shallow near-shore waters (which have wetland and estuary influence) for survival during at least a portion of their lives. Most often, these areas are the nursery grounds for young fish. The young benefit from the naturally high food concentrations in these areas and the shelter the vegetation and shallows provide. Some salmon for example, use stream-side wetlands for food and protection when very young, move to the estuaries with their fringing marshes for weeks or months as they grow and adapt to the salt water environment before migrating out to sea. When they return from sea as adults, the salmon will once again pause in the estuaries for a period to feed before heading upstream to spawn. Other fish species utilize wetlands and estuaries for years at a time, while still others depend on these areas or the associated near-shore ocean areas for their whole life.
It is estimated that at least half of the original wetlands in Oregon and Washington and about 90% of California's wetlands have already been lost to diking, filling, and development. Pollution, development, dredging, and the diversion of fresh water before it can reach the estuaries (for municipal, agricultural, and industrial use) can further degrade or destroy some of the remaining wetland and estuarine habitat.
The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission believes that public education about the value of wetlands and estuaries is critical if we are to stop the destruction of these habitats and encourage their restoration. While many people are aware that wetlands are important to herons, ducks, and frogs, few realize their importance to the fish they know or the seafood they eat. The following summaries of the habitat needs of familiar fish species, many of which are fished commercially or recreationally, have been prepared to increase that awareness.
As you look around your home and community, we encourage you to be aware of actions harmful to the wetlands, estuaries, streams, and other habitats important to fish and to become involved in education, protection, and restoration efforts. We all can play an invaluable role by helping to increase awareness about these habitats and we urge you to pass this information on to others or your library when done with it.
For further information please see the reference section.
* "Estuary" is the term given to the area at the end of a river where its fresh water mingles with the salt water of the sea. Also called harbors and bays, these areas nurture a rich and diverse array of plants an animals, including the fish in this review.
F.I.S.H. Habitat Education Program
45 S.E. 82nd Drive, Suite 100
Gladstone, OR 970270-2522
Phone: (503)650-5400 Fax: (503)650-5426