‘Catch reconstruction’ method unveils many nations have underreported fish catches

‘Catch reconstruction’ method unveils many nations have underreported fish catch

A concerning revelation has been made in a research that world’s fish stocks are in quite upsetting state, which may be a matter of worry for both international food security and marine ecosystems. National data submitted by many nations to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been found to be incorrect when it comes to reflecting the amount of fish caught over past six decades.

The new research paper published in the journal Nature Communications has unveiled that global marine fisheries catches was at their peak in 1996 with 86 million metric tons. But the research carried out by more than 50 institutions have unveiled that global catches peaked at 130 metric tons in 1996 and declined sharply since them. Now, on an average the catches are around 1.2 million metric tons every year.

Lead researchers Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project said that they were interested in know the level at which data submitted to the FAO was misrepresented.


Pauly said that while carrying out the study, they have come to know that many nations do not report about recreational fishing, discarded bycatch and illegal fishing owing to which the catch is underestimated.

The lead researchers then partnered with the experts across the globe to help them evaluate the official FAO data. So, they could know areas, where data might be missing and also to approach local experts and agencies to gather more accurate date- this method is known as catch reconstruction.

Using this method, the researchers have assessed all catches between 1950 and 2010. From the assessment, the researchers concluded that global catches during this time period were 50% higher than the FAO reported and peaked in the mid-1990s at 130 million metric tons.

The findings may encourage the FAO to ask nations to submit catch statistics separately for both large-scale and small-scale fisheries.

TheGuardian reported that, seafood is the critical source of protein for more than 2.5 billion people, but over-exploitation is cutting the catch by more than 1m tonnes a year.

The official catch data, provided by nations to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), rarely includes small-scale, sport or illegal fishing and does not count fish discarded at sea. To provide a better estimate, more than 400 researchers around the world spent a decade finding other data to fill in the gaps.

TheGlobeandMail report said, describing what he calls “systemic underestimation,” Daniel Pauly, a professor and lead author of the study, said there are multiple reasons for the discrepancy. “What is not reported are illegal fisheries,” he said, adding that other factors include “the artisanal fisheries, the small-scale fisheries that sell their fish, fishers that eat the fish themselves, and recreational fisheries.”

According to the WashingtonPost, the FAO’s official data report that global marine fisheries catches peaked in 1996 at 86 million metric tons and have since slightly declined. But a collaborative effort from more than 50 institutions around the world has produced data that tell a different story altogether. The new data suggest that global catches actually peaked at 130 metric tons in 1996 and have declined sharply — on average, by about 1.2 million metric tons every year — ever since.

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