Researchers at the University of British Columbia have released a study in the online open access journal Nature Communications (www.nature.com) estimating that the number of fish caught globally is drastically underreported.
The estimate by researchers in UBC’s Sea Around Us research initiative puts the annual global catch at roughly 109 million metric tons, about 30 percent higher than the 77 million officially reported in 2010 by more than 200 countries and territories.
Researchers attribute the discrepancy to most countries focusing their data collection efforts on industrial fishing and largely excluding the more difficult to track artisanal, subsistence and illegal fishing, as well as discarded fish.
UBC professor Daniel Pauly, a lead author of the study, said better estimating the amount of fish actually caught would help ensure there is enough fish to sustain us in the future.
Accurate catch data is critical for fisheries managers trying to understand the health of fish populations and inform fishing policies such as catch quotas and restrictions.
Pauly and his colleagues around the world reviewed catch and related data using a method called catch reconstruction. They compared official data submitted to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization with estimates from a broad range of sources, including academic literature, industrial fishing statistics, local fisheries experts, and fisheries law enforcement.
Joshua Reicher, executive vice president and head of environmental initiatives for The Pew Charitable Trusts, a supporter of this research, said the study confirms that far more fish are being taken from the oceans than official data suggests. It is no longer acceptable, Reicher said, to mark down artisanal, subsistence or bycatch catch data as a zero in the official record books.
A copy of the paper is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms10244