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Since We Last Spoke: Fish Out of Water

New twists on past stories.

By Kate Wheeling


Fishermen pull a net filled with Menhaden fish as they prepare to unload them to the main ship off the coast of Smith Island in Virginia on June 22, 2015. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on on January 20, 2016, with the headline “We’re Running Out of Fish Faster Than We Thought.” This edited version was published in our May/June 2016 print issue.

In our May/June 2015 issue, Bonnie Tsui chronicled one marine scientist’s efforts to persuade Japan’s government to restrict the harvest of a prized — and threatened — sushi fish, the bluefin tuna. A study published in Nature Communications in January suggests that, since the global marine catch peaked in 1996, governments have based such restrictions on limited data that drastically underestimates the global catch. Hundreds of researchers worldwide spent over a decade combing obscure records from local fishery organizations, colonial archives, and even household-nutrition surveys to improve on the United Nations’ spotty official records. “We have two results that are almost contradictory: One is that the world’s oceans are very productive — they produce more fish for us than we knew were available. The second is that these resources are going down the tube very rapidly,” the study’s lead author, Daniel Pauly, told Pacific Standard.