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January 25, 2012

Investigative journalists uncover truth behind decimated fish stocks in the Pacific



The latest “Looting the Seas” report by the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) was published today. You may recall a few months ago, we discussed their investigation into illegal fishing, seafood fraud and runaway subsidies in Spain. This time, they turned their focus to the Pacific Ocean, specifically looking into how European, Asian and Latin American fleets have decimated fish stocks in the once rich waters.

It’s not looking good, not at all. Here are the report’s shocking key findings:

•    Asian, European and Latin American fleets have devastated fish stocks in the southern Pacific, once among the world’s richest waters.

•    Since 2006, jack mackerel stocks have declined by nearly two-thirds. The oily fish is a staple in Africa, but people elsewhere are unaware that it is in their forkfuls of farmed salmon. Jack mackerel is a vital component of fishmeal for aquaculture.

•    National interests and geopolitical rivalry have blocked efforts since 2006 to ratify a regional fisheries management organization that can impose binding regulations to rescue jack mackerel from further collapse.

•    In Chile, a handful of companies controlled by wealthy families own rights to 87 percent of the jack mackerel catch; with government backing, they have secured unrealistically high quotas — beyond what scientists say are essential to save the stock.

•    In Peru, the world’s second largest fishing nation, widespread cheating at fishmeal plants allows companies to overfish and evade taxes. At least 630,000 tons of anchoveta – worth nearly $200 million as fishmeal – “vanished” over two and a half years.

It’s so frustrating to know that despite the slew of information about the state of the world’s fish stocks, short term interests continue to wreak havoc on our environment, putting at stake the future of the communities, industries and lives that depend on this resource.

I hope this report will open more eyes to the reality of the situation, and push more policy makers around the world to act fast and restore our oceans to their once bountiful states.