Letter | Published:

Systematic distortions in world fisheries catch trends

Nature volume 414, pages 534536 (29 November 2001) | Download Citation



Over 75% of the world marine fisheries catch (over 80 million tonnes per year) is sold on international markets, in contrast to other food commodities (such as rice)1,2. At present, only one institution, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) maintains global fisheries statistics. As an intergovernmental organization, however, FAO must generally rely on the statistics provided by member countries, even if it is doubtful that these correspond to reality. Here we show that misreporting by countries with large fisheries, combined with the large and widely fluctuating catch of species such as the Peruvian anchoveta, can cause globally spurious trends. Such trends influence unwise investment decisions by firms in the fishing sector and by banks, and prevent the effective management of international fisheries.

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We thank V. Christensen for the upwelling index, and A. Gelchu for the species distribution shape files used here. We also thank our colleagues in the ‘Sea Around Us’ Project. This work was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts through the ‘Sea Around Us’ Project, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia. D.P. also acknowledges support from the National Science and Engineering Council of Canada.

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  1. *Fisheries Centre, 2204 Main Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

    • Reg Watson
    •  & Daniel Pauly


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Correspondence to Reg Watson.

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