Study: China falsifying fish figures
Vancouver Province , 29 Nov 2001


TORONTO -- World fish stocks are being wildly overstated as a result of fishy Chinese statistics, University of B.C. researchers say.

For more than a decade, China has been exaggerating catch reports, leading scientists to believe there's a healthy number of fish in the sea, say Reg Watson and Daniel Pauly in the science journal Nature.

In spite of local evidence that fish stocks are overexploited, figures from the United Nations have long suggested world-wide catches rose 330,000 tonnes a year throughout the 1990s.

Those numbers have helped to foster a false sense of security about the health of international fish stocks, the study by Watson and Pauly found.

In fact, China's numbers have been artificially driving up the tally, which has actually declined by 360,000 tonnes a year since 1988.

The pair say mid-level Chinese government officials often get promotions on the basis of meeting production targets. Decisions by banks, investment firms and conservation experts based on the false belief that fish stocks are healthy could be disastrous, the researchers warned.

The article describes the experience of one fishing company whose supertrawler went from one barren sea to another in a futile search for fish.