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Conserv Biol. 2011 Aug;25(4):777-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01687.x. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

Contrasting global trends in marine fishery status obtained from catches and from stock assessments.

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School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


There are differences in perception of the status of fisheries around the world that may partly stem from how data on trends in catches over time have been used. On the basis of catch trends, it has been suggested that about 70% of all stocks are overexploited due to unsustainable harvesting and 30% of all stocks have collapsed to <10% of unfished levels. Catch trends also suggest that over time an increasing number of stocks will be overexploited and collapsed. We evaluated how use of catch data affects assessment of fisheries stock status. We analyzed simulated random catch data with no trend. We examined well-studied stocks classified as collapsed on the basis of catch data to determine whether these stocks actually were collapsed. We also used stock assessments to compare stock status derived from catch data with status derived from biomass data. Status of stocks derived from catch trends was almost identical to what one would expect if catches were randomly generated with no trend. Most classifications of collapse assigned on the basis of catch data were due to taxonomic reclassification, regulatory changes in fisheries, and market changes. In our comparison of biomass data with catch trends, catch trends overestimated the percentage of overexploited and collapsed stocks. Although our biomass data were primarily from industrial fisheries in developed countries, the status of these stocks estimated from catch data was similar to the status of stocks in the rest of the world estimated from catch data. We conclude that at present 28-33% of all stocks are overexploited and 7-13% of all stocks are collapsed. Additionally, the proportion of fished stocks that are overexploited or collapsed has been fairly stable in recent years.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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