The United Nations Food and Agriculture Administration (FAO) seriously underestimated the amount of fish being pulled from Arctic waters, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

Discovery News' Christina Reed mentioned this research in a recent blog.

Enjoying Seafood Sustainably

The Food and Agriculture Administration's official estimate is 12,700 metric tonnes, or about 14,000 tons. But the researchers' estimate is 75 times that of the Food and Agriculture Administration. Between 1950 and 2006, nearly 1,050,000 tons, or 950,000 tonnes, of fish were caught in the Arctic Ocean, according to research from the University of British Columbia published in the journal Polar Biology.

Oceans' Fish Could Disappear by 2050

 “Ineffective reporting, due to governance issues and a lack of credible data on small-scale fisheries, has given us a false sense of comfort that the Arctic is still a pristine frontier when it comes to fisheries,” said lead author Dirk Zeller, of the University of British Colombia in a press release. “We now offer a more accurate baseline against which we can monitor changes in fish catches and to inform policy and conservation efforts.”

Here is where the researchers say the unreported fish went during the 1950 to 2006 period:

  • Russia: reported to FAO – 12,700 tonnes

actual – 777,000 tonnes

  • Canada: reported to FAO – 0 tonnes

actual – 94,000 tonnes

  • United States: reported to FAO – 0 tonnes

actual – 89,000 tonnes

 “Our work shows a lack of care by the Canadian, U.S. and Russian governments in trying to understand the food needs and fish catches of northern communities,” said Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia in a press release.

Fish Feel Pain Too

“This research confirms that there is already fishing pressure in this region,” said Pauly. “The question now is whether we should allow the further expansion of fisheries into the Arctic.”

“Conservation efforts in the Arctic have so far focused on the exploitation of marine mammals — seals and polar bears are frankly easy on the eye and plain to see,” said Zeller. “None of them would survive, however, if we allow over-exploitation of fish in this delicate but so-far neglected ecosystem.”