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Study: Global landings under-reported by 32 million metric tons a year

Excluding illegal fishing volumes, bycatch from data collection led to the underestimation of global fish catches.

New research by the University of British Columbia, in Canada, reveals the world's total fish catch is under-reported by 32 million metric tons a year, reports Market Business News.

The authors of the study, Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller, from the Sea Around Us, an initiative at the University of British Columbia supported by the Pew Charitable Trust and Vulcan, wrote in the academic journal Nature Communications that the under-reported figures obscure a significant decline in the total fish catch.

According to the estimates, the annual global fish catch stands at approximately 109 million metric tons, around 30 percent higher than the 77 million reported by over 200 nations and territories in 2010.

The researchers said the majority of the countries focus their data collection on industrial fishing, excluding illegal fishing volumes, discarded fish, and artisanal catches, which has led to this underestimation of global landings.

“The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn or the remaining balance. Better estimating the amount we’re taking out can help ensure there is enough fish to sustain us in the future,” said Pauly.

Using a catch reconstruction method from reviewed catch and related information from over 200 countries and territories, the researchers compared the official data submitted to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with estimates obtained from sources, including local fisheries experts, fisheries law enforcement, human populations and industrial fishing statistics.

“It’s no longer acceptable to mark down artisanal, subsistence, or bycatch catch data as a zero in the official record books,” said Joshua S. Reichert, executive vice president and head of environment initiatives for Pew.