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Fisheries News

Wednesday, December 5th 2001 - 20:00 UTC
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Recalculation shows global fish stocks declining

Inaccurate reporting of fish catches has created a false impression thatfish stocks are plentiful, suggests a new model. Recalculation reveals aglobal industry and food supply in peril. Despite local evidence that fishing industries are over-exploiting the seas, globally fish stocks look rosy. Rising catch sizes are consistently reported by the single source of statistics, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Over-reporting of catches, particularly by China, may have distorted thenumbers and hence policy, say Reg Watson and Daniel Pauly of the Universityof British Columbia in Vancouver. They estimate that there has been analarming decline in the size of fish catches since 19881. "The results are stunning," says marine biologist Jane Lubchenco of OregonState University in Corvallis. "We're on a trajectory of significantdecline," she says - one that only a drastic overhaul of fishery managementcan halt. Dropping stocks threaten not only the fishing industry but world foodproduction. Fish provide around 17% of the world's animal protein and manydeveloping countries in particular rely on it.

Taking stock

In the 1970s, fish ecologists predicted catch figures would level off in the 1990s, explains Andrew Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire inDurham, when the biological capacity of the oceans was reached. Rosenbergwas previously deputy director of the US National Marine Fisheries Service.Many fish stocks, such as the North Atlantic cod, have already crashed. TheFAO currently deems nearly 70% of major marine fisheries - industries basedaround a particular fish type or region - fully or overexploited. Theanomalously healthy catch statistics were conventionally put down todiscovery of new stocks, explains Rosenberg. From FAO figures collected since the 1950s, Watson and Pauly haveconstructed a map of regional fish catches. Using this, they built astatistical model to predict catches based on factors such as food abundance and water depth. The model accurately mirrors actual figures in mostregions ?

Hake biomass recovery

Hake biomass in the South Atlantic seems to be recovering a

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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