Latest UN FAO report states that only 10% of exploited fish stocks are being assessed.
In two years’ time, the percentage of fully exploited, overexploited or depleted stocks has risen from 80% to 85%
Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, highlights the urgent need for better scientific data on worldwide fish stocks, following last night’s release of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) report on the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. According to the report, 85 % percent of world fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted (up from 80% in the 2009 report), but only 10% of global exploited fish stocks are assessed – accounting for 80% of total declared landings. The enormous gaps in measurable data that exist for the vast majority of worldwide stocks, without which effective management plans cannot be developed, severely threaten marine biodiversity.
“While the global fisheries decline described in the FAO report is alarming, the greater issue of concern is our blindness to the true extent of stock depletion in oceans around the world,” states Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe. “The lack of scientific information and the total absence of management for the majority of global stocks expose an even worse scenario: we are losing species worldwide without even noticing they exist.”
The data used for assessment reports such as this latest from FAO, represents only a fraction of the total number of exploited populations worldwide. In addition, data are generally more available for fisheries in developed countries, and are often lacking for developing countries and for distant fleets.
Meanwhile, problems also persist with high levels of often unreported bycatch and discards around the world. In fact, the last published estimate of discards in world fisheries is about 7 million tons a year. Oceana is proposing a combination of approaches to address the problem, including among others, the enforcement of technical measures such as improving the selectivity of gears, closing fishing areas, and ending poor fishing practice (such as trawling).
There are many steps needed to ensure that the world’s fish stocks are exploited in a sustainable manner, but without accurate data and management plans that are correctly developed and implemented, marine biodiversity will continue to dwindle.