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Although the numbers released by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization show that global fishing has been decreasing over the past few years, it seems that official fishing reports may be severely underestimating overfishing. This claim comes as a result from a study conducted at the university of British Columbia, but this concept is not entirely new, because most scientific parties have been accusing the FAO of systemic underestimation for a couple of years up to this point.
The study itself consisted of applying the “catch reconstruction” method of analysis on the data released by the FAO. This was made possible through a partnership between the UBC and several parties from all around the globe. By exploring regional data and contacting the regions’ officials and experts, the team was able to provide a much more conclusive status of overfishing in comparison to the one provided by the FAO.
The reason why this systemic underestimation is present in the analysis conducted by UN officials stems from the fact that the FAO focuses only on the larger fishing businesses and the industry as a whole. Small-scale fisheries, recreational ones, as well as subsistence fisheries, get completely disregarded, even though their fish product is marked at around 32 million tons per year. Additionally, this number does not include illegal fishing or fisheries that have not been documented on by a state official.
Statistically speaking, the disparity between the study’s numbers and the ones released by the FAO is staggering, showing differences between 300% and 30% depending on the location. In island and archipelago states, the highest difference is present, most likely due to the fact that these states are often times secluded. In coastal or inland states, the disparity is much smaller, between 20% and 30%, but that does not in any way mean it should be omitted.
The peak of fish catching was present in 1996, with official numbers reaching 87 million tons for that year. But according to the study, this number was completely underestimated, with the actual amount of fish being marked at 140 million tons.
This disparity can be easily circumvented if the FAO asks state officials to release numbers for both small and large-scale fisheries accordingly, as well as including illegal fishing practices. But in order for that to happen, the FAO has to seriously consider if the study from UBC is conclusive or not.
Due to the alleged fact that official fishing reports may be severely underestimating overfishing, if fishing population numbers do not get restocked in the near future, according to the statistics released by the UBC, a massive shortage of fish will appear in the following years. Fishing quotas have to be urgently implemented if the UN hopes to quell this current decrease in fish supplies and stocks.