Millions more tonnes of fish are caught globally than expected

Secondo uno studio tra il 1950 e il 2010 le quantità reali di pescato sarebbero superiori del 50 per cento a quelle dichiarate dai vari stati.

Seas and oceans, in which life has begun, are gradually turning into arid deserts of water due to overfishing and pollution. According to a study by WWF, marine wildlife halved over the past 45 years.


Pesca industriale
According to a new study, 32 million tonnes of fish catch goes unreported every year

The situation could be even worse, according to a new study published by Nature Communications. Official estimates would significantly underestimate global data related to the volume of fish that is caught. Researchers of the University of British Columbia, Canada, found that between 1950 and 2010 data related to catches are likely to be 50 per cent higher than what member countries voluntarily reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

This phenomenon, according to researchers, concerns data of industrial-scale fisheries, whilst estimates of small-scale catches (such as subsistence fisheries) are not reported to FAO. By consequence, FAO’s official figures underestimate real fishery’s global impact and the effective volume of catches.

Peschereccio olandese
Fishing boat, The Neteherlands © Eric Gevaert

The study shows that some 32 million tonnes of undeclared fish catch should be added to United Nations’ data each year. “The FAO doesn’t have the mandate to correct the data that they get,” said Daniel Pauly, the study’s lead author. “Countries have the bad habit of reporting only what they see.”

Therefore, there’s a systemic underestimation of fisheries catch, which could concern significant percentages: “up to 20 to 30 per cent in developed countries, and 200 to 300 percent especially in small island states,” said Pauly. In order to better understand the effective underestimation, Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with the NGO Pew Charitable Trusts and with the support of an international network of 400 scientists, have evaluated the catches of over 200 countries between 1950 and 2010.

After analysing a wide range of direct and indirect sources, researchers compared them to data released by the FAO. According to official data, as of 1950, global fisheries catch increased steadily to 86 million tonnes in 1996, and then remained stable or declined only slightly, by nearly 0.40 million tonnes per year. In 2010, fisheries catch fell to 77 million tonnes, according to the FAO.

Banco di pesci in mare
According to the WWF, marine wildlife halved over the past 45 years © Mike Segar/Reuters

However, data provided by Pauly and his team show much higher figures though: from 130 million tonnes in 1996 to almost 109 million tonnes in 2010. These new estimates highlight how data on catches were assessed downwards, whilst Pauly and Zeller write that their reconstructed catch data could contribute to formulating better policies for governing the world’s marine fisheries.

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