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FIshing Catches Vastly Underreported Around the Globe, New Study Finds


A new study on the world's fish catching data has disputed official figures from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the new study indicates fish catch rates are much higher than the FAO has reported. The stark divide may be attributed to alternative types of fishing such as sport, small-scale, and illegal practices, according to The Guardian.

The FAO's data shows fish have been caught at a steadily climbing rate since 1950 and even declined from about 86 million tons in 1996 to 77 million tons in 2010. The new study indicated alternative fishing practices that are underreported would account for a 53 percent increase if added to the FAO's totals.

"Our results differ very strongly from those of the FAO," study lead author Daniel Pauly, of the University of British Columbia, told The Guardian. "Our results indicate that the decline is very strong and is not due to countries fishing less. It is due to countries having fished too much and having exhausted one fishery after another."

Small-scale fishing is a major way these underreported catches go unnoticed and the researchers noticed some fishermen bypassing official documentation of their catches by selling what they caught themselves. Regardless, some experts in the field will not consider the new result reliable.

"I think we all agree that global catches are probably higher than reported but I do not think that this new catch reconstruction is sufficiently reliable to draw conclusions concerning trends in catches or global fisheries," Keith Brander, an expert of on fisheries and marine ecosystems at the Technical University of Denmark who was not involved in the study, told BBC News. "It may point to particular regions and fisheries sectors that require substantial improvement in statistics in order to improve fisheries management, but to do this one really needs to get into the fine detail."

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