Quirks and Quarks·Quirks

The dangers of underestimating overfishing

Global fisheries harvests have been systematically under-counted by not including non-industrial fisheries which represent 50% more fish taken from the seas.

Under-reporting of fishing globally has been hiding a declining trend

Fishes are seen at a wet market in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur. (Samsul Said/Reuters)
Global statistics for fishing catch are assembled by the UN from reports from individual countries. But these reports typically don't include subsistence fishing, small-scale commercial fishing for informal domestic markets, recreational fishing, bycatch and, of course, illegal fishing.

By using a range of non-traditional data sources, Dr. Daniel Pauly, Professor of Fisheries and Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia, and a large collaboration of colleagues around the world, reconstructed this unreported fishing.

They found that this unreported catch represented a 50% increase in annual fishing harvest every year, and what's more, suggested fishery declines in the last two decades that official UN numbers weren't capturing.

Related Links

Paper in Nature Communications
- UBC release
- CBC story
SciAm/Nature article