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The state of the world’s fish stocks may be much worse than official figures suggest, according to a study, which shows that global fish catches have decreased alarmingly in the past decade.

Statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation — which show global fish catches to have increased since 1950 — have been distorted by exaggerated estimates of catch sizes by some countries, particularly China, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver writing in Nature.

Local Chinese officials, whose promotion is linked to their ability to exceed production targets in the country’s socialist economy, may be responsible for the over-reporting, they say.

Reference: Nature 414, 534 (2001)

Link to news article in Nature
Link to paper by Watson and Pauly in Nature