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Global Fishing Reports Indicate That Figures Are Far From The Truth

New research undertaken at the University of British Columbia (UBC) indicates that up to one third of fish captured in the world’s oceans is not being reported by fisheries. Over a ten-year study, The UBC research initiative, restructured the official UN data with external data, such as university studies, nutritional surveys, and local knowledge, in order to assess the impact of fisheries on the marine ecosystems of the world.

To their surprise, and to the detriment of the world’s oceans, they identified that there is significant unreported fishing activity, and confirmed that commercial fish stocks are in even greater decline than originally reported. In 2015, 81.2 million tonnes of marine life was supposedly harvested from the ocean, but the real figures suggest that this is much closer to 120 million tonnes. Illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing has many economic, social, environmental and ecological impacts. This type of activity affects import and export markets, increases bycatch and leads fisherman to adopt extreme fishing practices, such as ‘fishing down’ – whereby commercial fleets, having depleted stocks of top predators in the food web, go deeper into the ocean and further down the food chain in order to find viable fish. Fishing down not only puts smaller species at risk of exploitation, but upsets the balance of marine life in the ocean, in turn putting an end to any chance of recovery for predator species. Commercial fishing and destructive fishing activities pose a serious threat to global fish populations; with many fish stocks currently on the brink of widespread collapse.

While some fish populations may be restored with active fisheries management, stronger regulations and better law enforcement, some fish populations will struggle to recover because of the drastic changes that have taken place to their ecosystem, and their role in it. Restoring their habitat to a healthy equilibrium will be a difficult and arduous task, and one which will require hard work and dedication. While the temptation to break the law and overexploit fish stocks is high for some commercial fishing vessels, there is hope that many of these practices will become banned in the near future, with a focus on more sustainable fishing practices that conserve ecosystems. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a major environmental issue facing the global fishing industry. When fisherman inaccurately report their catch, official fish catch and stock estimates are incorrect, in turn impacting on how fisheries are managed. Continuing at the current rate, will inevitably lead to the collapse of important ecosystems and cause irreparable damage to our marine life.

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