Lose the seagrass and lose the fisheries

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Editor’s note: This article is part 1 of 5 of the series Changing Tides, which was produced in part through the support of the Pulitzer Center.

A small net dipped into a patch of grass submerged in shin-deep water near the edge of a salt Chamarsh on the central North Carolina coast. 

Retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Jud Kenworthy of Beaufort lifted the net to reveal a colorfully striped juvenile pinfish, no bigger than a pinkie, among the strands of green and brown vegetation.

Pinfish are among dozens of fish species residing in estuaries for part of their lives, grazing on underwater grasses. Eventually, schools of the small fish, distinguished by a sharp dorsal fin, will spawn offshore in large groups and be hunted by predators: groupers, snappers and dolphins. 

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