Global overfishing is a much bigger problem than previously thought. Nearly one third of the world’s fish catch goes unreported, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications.
The researchers estimate that nearly 109 million metric tons of fish are caught in the oceans each year. Not only is that a staggeringly large number, it is a much higher amount than the 77 million metric tons that is officially reported.
The high number of missing fish is largely because dozens of nations fail to account for artisanal, subsistence, and illegal fishing, UPI reports. Furthermore, discarded fish–fish that are caught and then thrown back–account for almost nine percent of the total global catch.
Getting an accurate estimate of the global catch is vital for both fishery managers and conservationists. Accurate information is crucial for shaping both regulations and conservation efforts. Without it, it is impossible to know how much of an impact humans are having on global waters.
“Data are integral to maintaining global fisheries,” says Raechel Waters, senior program officer for ocean health for Vulcan Inc., in a statement by the University of British Columbia. “Without an accurate understanding of fish catch, we risk underreporting or misreporting, which can handicap countries in their efforts to implement effective fisheries policy and management measures.” Waters was not involved in the study.
Lead author Daniel Pauly, a professor of marine biology at the University of British Columbia adds: “The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn or the remaining balance.”
According to the authors, some 32 million metric tons of caught fish go unreported every year–an amount that outweighs the entire population of the United States.