It seems that global overfishing issues might be worse than estimated and that numbers reported to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have been misleading. The problem arrives in the wake of numerous voices calling out for a lesser strain on marine wildlife. In a matter of decades, it is possible that our oceans will be scarcely populated.
A team of international researchers crunched the numbers on national fishing rates in countries around the world. However, in addition to the official reports, they also took into account artisanal fishing, subsistence fishing, and bycatch fishing that was believed to be neglected. According to Joshua Reichert from Pew Charitable Funds, those numbers can no longer be counted as zero in official records.
They are an integral part of worldwide market that should be countered just the same as industrial fishing.
The margin of error is of 30%
In 2010, the U.N.’s FAO received reports from 200 countries, rounding up the total global catch to 77 million metric tons. However, researchers found, in their more detailed study, that the numbers were actually 30% higher than thought. That meant that the total rose up to 109 million metric tons in 2010, implying a margin of error of 32 million metric tons. As stated by researchers, that’s a flaw in research equal to the entire weight of the American population.
The study suggests that it might not have been the last faulty report. In fact, they estimate that global catches between 1950 and 2010 were all 50% higher than believed. It implies that the peak year of fishing, 1996, was not of 86 million metric tons, but much closer a whopping 130 million.
According to lead author of the study, Daniel Pauly, it appears that the world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish, ignorant as to what is lost or how it affects the balance. There are markets that have been woefully neglected in reports, and industrial fishing has become a “globalized commodity”. Numerous nations now import fish from poorly developed countries, who actually end up not consuming the catch found in their own waters. That skews reports.
Commercial fishing is in decline
The researchers looked into other factors that might’ve influenced the numbers. They took into account academic literature, industrial fishing statistics, local fisheries experts, law enforcers, coastal communities, along with tourist catch. While it is true that commercial fishing is in decline, others are on the rise.
According to their findings, small-scale artisanal fishing, for example, has seen to an increase from 8 million metric tons to 22 million per year between 1950 and 2010. Subsistence fishing rose to 3.8 million metric tons per year, and recreational catches round up at nearly 1 million. The new estimates would provide nations with more accurate information on catch levels. And the news is indeed worrying.
We are “fishing harder and catching less fish” which will ultimately lead to the decline of fish populations in our waters. Better fish catch reports will help nations implement more effective policies as well as better management measures.
Image source: temensisfishing.com