Chinese catch figures seem fishy to analysts
Calgary Herald, 29 Nov 2001

The tally of the world's fish stocks is being wildly overstated as a result of fishy statistics from China, a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia suggests.

Indications that China has been exaggerating catch reports for more than a decade means fish stocks have fallen much further than previously thought, says an article to be published today in the science journal Nature.

Despite local evidence that fish stocks are overexploited, figures from the United Nations have long suggested worldwide catches rose 330,000 tonnes a year throughout the 1990s.

In fact, China's doctored numbers have been artificially driving up the tally, which has actually declined by some 360,000 tonnes a year since 1988, says the article by researchers Reg Watson and Daniel Pauly.

"The catches are much higher than you'd expect, inexplicably higher," Watson said of China's annual catch reports, which account for roughly 18 per cent of the world's total.

"There really is no oceanographic feature that we've looked at that explains the high catch."

There is a socio-political feature unique to China that may explain it: mid-level government officials who tended to get promotions on the basis of meeting production targets.

"It's virtually required to reach production targets and these are increased every year," said Watson.