University of Washington
Misreporting fish counts can happen at the dock, on the boat and in processing plants — and many fish aren’t counted due to illegal fishing, sport fishing or discarded fish.

Recording how many fish are caught is one important requirement to measure the well-being of a fish stock — if scientists know the number of fish taken from the ocean, they can adjust management of that fishery to keep it from being overfished. Missing catch data, however, are rampant, causing concern that fisheries around the world are overfished.

A new study by University of Washington scientists finds that in many cases, this isn’t true. Specifically, misreporting caught fish doesn’t always translate to overfishing. The study was published online this month in the journal Fish and Fisheries.

“While quantifying total catch is important for understanding how much is removed from the system, it is possible to manage sustainably even if we don’t know those numbers,” said lead author Merrill Rudd, a UW doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences. “This paper shows there are some situations where, just because there is unreported catch, it doesn’t mean we are overfishing.”

The researchers — including Trevor Branch, senior author and UW associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences — modeled five different misreporting scenarios on a simulated fishery and found that in cases where misreporting was constant, the fish population could still be managed sustainably over the years because misreporting was proportional each year.

Read more at UW Today »