Global Fisheries are Depleting Far Faster Than We Thought: Massive Underreporting

First Posted: Jan 20, 2016 09:40 AM EST

It turns out that countries drastically underreport the number of fish caught worldwide, which could mean we're running out of fish. The new estimate could mean that we need to make stricter policies-and enforce them-when it comes to fish catch.

"The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn or the remaining balance," said Daniel Pauly, lead author of the new study, in a news release. "Better estimating the amount we're taking out can help ensure there is enough fish to sustain us in the future."

Accurate catch information is critical for helping fisheries officials and managers understand the health of fish populations and inform fishing policies such as catch quotas and seasonal area restrictions.

In this latest study, the researchers reviewed catch and related data from more than 200 countries and territories. Using a method called catch reconstruction, the scientists compared official data submitted to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with estimates obtained from a broad range of sources, including academic literature, industrial fishing statistics, local fisheries experts, fisheries law enforcement, human population, and other records such as documentation of fish catch by tourists.

"These new estimates provide countries with more accurate assessments of catch levels than we have ever had, along with a far more nuanced portrait of the amount of fish that are being removed from the world's oceans each year," said Joshua S. Reichert, executive vice president and head of environment initiatives for Pew, in a news release.

It's particularly important to collect data in order to maintain global fisheries. This allows researchers to better understand what's left in terms of catch when setting the yearly catch limits.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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