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Fishy data hid decline in global catch

Many coastal fisheries are in trouble, yet according to figures reported to the United Nations, the annual worldwide yield has appeared to be stable or even growing. By reported numbers, for example, Chinese fisherman have annually hauled more than 15 million tons of food from the sea for 3 years running, and their bounty grew to that amount–nearly 20 percent of the world's total–from 2.5 million tons in 1970.

So, what's the catch? It's poorer than reported, according to a new study, and waning with each passing year.

Two marine scientists at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver set out to test the validity of data that the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) uses to assess fishery health. The organization relies on nations to report their yields and lacks the capacity to audit those numbers.

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