Business, Conservation, Sustainability

Global Fish Catch Is Underreported

The M.V. Northern Osprey is a factory fish trawler that operates with a crew of 36. Overfishing is a serious threat to the health of fish populations around the globe.
The M.V. Northern Osprey is a factory fish trawler that operates with a crew of 36. Overfishing is a serious threat to the health of fish populations around the globe. Photo: Dennis Jarvis | FlickrCC.

According to researchers at the Sea Around Us research initiative at the University of British Columbia, world fish catches are being underreported, and should be about 30% higher. In 2010, between more than 200 countries and territories, global fish catch was reported at 77 billion kilograms, but according to Sea Around Us, it should be 32 billion kilos more, around 109 billion kilograms, or 109 million metric tons.

The problem stems from the way countries track and report fish catches. Most focus their data on industrial fishing, and don’t bother with harder to track categories like subsistence or illegal fishing, or fish, which are discarded instead of counted. All of these things together account for a lot of fish that are being taken out of the ocean, but not accounted for.

The reason they need to be accounted for is because, as lead author Daniel Pauly put it, countries are all pulling from one communal “bank account of fish,” but they don’t actually know what everyone else is withdrawing, or how much is less.

Fish, especially in the ocean, are not as guaranteed as, say, corn or wheat crops. There are lots of factors around the world that can impact the breeding and growth rates of fish, and the ocean is, overall, a network of very delicate ecosystems.

If we had more accurate data about how large catches are, but also how healthy fish stocks are, we could develop guidelines and legislation that could keep those stocks healthy for longer. Overfishing is a serious danger to fish populations, and while steps are taken to prevent it, for both ecological and economic reasons, if we don’t have proper numbers to measure those catches, we can’t very well stick with the guidelines we have.

Overfishing, especially to extinction, could not only put ecosystems at risk, but also the livelihood and even the lives of many people

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