Reconstruction of Marine Fisheries Catches for Key Countries and Regions (1950-2005)
2007 | FCRR 15(2)
Edited by Dirk Zeller and Daniel Pauly.
When, in 1998, I published a short paper providing "[A] rationale for reconstructing catch time series", I thought that the proposed concepts and methodology would need to be applied only to countries and regions (e.g., the Caribbean) not well covered in the global FAO database of fisheries landings.
Now, 10 years later, a rather different view of global fisheries statistics has emerged:
- IUU (i.e., Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fisheries catches, which are now perceived to be quite large, have moved to the centre stage in the consciousness of fisheries managers worldwide, and get regular coverage in the international media;
- Catch reconstructions performed for various countries throughout the world, many under the guidance of Dr. Dirk Zeller, this report's senior editor, show that the statistics supplied to FAO by many countries, large and small, underestimate their likely true catch (i.e., reported landings + IUU) by a factor of 2 or more.
While the illegal catches of industrial fisheries (which probably contribute most of the 'I' in IUU) are rather difficult to document, the mostly unreported catches of small-scale fisheries can be inferred from fisher number, and/or fish consumption data. Hence, catch reconstructions tend to boost catches from the small-scale sector, which is particularly neglected in the global FAO data set.
The neglect of small-scale fisheries has a strong effect on fisheries policy. Many countries, especially in the developing world, pay little attention to their small-scale fisheries, in the mistaken belief that they contribute little to their national economy and food security. Hence, these countries fail to devote resources to the study of these fisheries, and hence their catches remain un- or substantially under-reported to FAO, where they indeed appear to contribute little, thus perpetuating the problem.
The only way to get out of this vicious circle is to actually reconstruct national catches from independent data if possible, or by complementing the FAO data. This report presents both types of reconstructions. Also, two contributions are presented which disaggregate the catches of the ex-USSR and ex-Yugoslavia such that the republics that emerged from the dissolution of these multi-ethnic states are treated as if they had always existed (at least since 1950, when FAO's global statistical fisheries system began). This will enable one to treat, e.g., Russia, or Croatia, as any fisheries nations, i.e., building on fisheries catch data going back several decades, and allowing for analysis of long-term trends.
It may be useful to stress again that reconstructions of the sort presented here do not claim to provide 'true catches'. 'Truth' must remain elusive. But the catches presented in this report certainly represent an improvement over the present situation, and could thus be considered to move towards the 'likely true' catch levels. And often, this is all we can hope for: to improve on things.
Director, Fisheries Centre