What catch data can tell us about the status of global fisheries

Rainer Froese, Dirk Zeller, Kristin Kleisner, Daniel Pauly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Citations (Scopus)


The only available data set on the catches of global fisheries are the official landings reported annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Attempts to detect and interpret trends in these data have been criticized as being both technically and conceptually flawed. Here, we explore and refute these claims. We show explicitly that trends in catch data are not an artifact of the applied method and are consistent with trends in biomass data of fully assessed stocks. We also show that, while comprehensive stock assessments are the preferred method for evaluating single stocks, they are a biased subsample of the stocks in a given area, strongly underestimating the percentage of collapsed stocks. We concur with a recent assessment-based analysis by FAO that the increasing trends in the percentage of overexploited, depleted, and recovering stocks and the decreasing trends in underexploited and moderately exploited stocks give cause for concern. We show that these trends are much more pronounced if all available data are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1283-1292
Number of pages10
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


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