Overfishing Is Worse Than We Knew

'The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2016 6:40 PM CST
Study: Overfishing Is Worse Than We Knew
A new study claims overfishing is a bigger problem than official UN numbers would lead you to believe.   (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner, File)

Global overfishing might be much worse than previously thought, Discovery reports. A new study finds that UN figures have vastly understated the problem and that yearly fish hauls are declining three times faster than realized. According to the study, the UN—using numbers from the Food and Agriculture Organization—stated that global fishing peaked in 1996 at 86 million metric tons, but the researchers say it was actually closer to 130 million metric tons. Since then, the study claims the total amount of fish caught has declined by 1.2 million metric tons per year—not 0.4 million metric tons as the UN had said, the Guardian reports. “Our results indicate that the decline is very strong and is not due to countries fishing less," study author Daniel Pauly says. "It is due to countries having fished too much and having exhausted one fishery after another.”

The study, which was published Tuesday in Nature Communications, is based on a decade of work by 400 researchers around the world. The numbers used by the UN come from the self-reporting of more than 200 countries and territories, and governments might not always be inclined to give accurate fishing counts, notes the Guardian. Researchers undertook a "Herculean task" to get more accurate counts for the years from 1950 to 2010, says one professor not involved with the study. “The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn or the remaining balance,” Pauly tells Discovery. And while the Food and Agriculture Organization disputes the study's new numbers, it does agree with its conclusion that countries need to improve their reporting, according to Science. (One particularly devastating technique: bombing fish out of the water.)

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