Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Search the Site
Buy Tom's Books
  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace
« Climate Change Tests Metropolitan Resilience With Wider Array Of Weather Dynamics | Main | A World In Which China’s Economic Resilience Seems As Important To The World As America’s »
1:12PM

Transparency Begets Measurability Begets Improvement Begets Resilience

YOU CANNOT IMPROVE AN INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY THAT YOU CANNOT MEASURE, BUT YOU CANNOT MEASURE THAT ACTIVITY IF THE INDUSTRY ISN'T BEING HONEST. The world's fisheries are under a great deal of stress right now, between pollution and rising ocean acidity triggered by higher CO2 absorption rates. Unsurprisingly, the more regulated Western nations, having themselves long overfished, now do a much better job of measuring and managing fish stock. But with the ballooning middle class emerging across the East and South, two global regions even more given to eating fish than the West, the pressure for bigger catches is immense among those very nations featuring weaker governments and regulatory oversight, begetting a classic "tragedy of the commons" that is now being addressed by an aggressive expansion of aquaculture (fishing "farms") across Asia, which, in turn, generates new and profound environmental stresses along that continent's littoral zones.

world-fish-production

The key to managing fish stocks is reliable data, which is hard to come by, the crucial requirement being open and transparent cooperation among commercial fishing firms and the scientific community. Where is that going to best happen? Where the regulatory environment is strongest.

However, a recent study suggests that, on a global basis, fish catches are systematically under-reported:

Tens of millions more tons of fish have been taken from the seas than are recorded in official statistics, suggests a huge and controversial project aiming to estimate the ‘true catch’ of the world’s fishing industry.

The work is detailed in a paper in Nature Communications by fisheries researchers Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and it builds on a decade-long project that has drawn in hundreds of researchers from around the world.

According to Pauly and Zeller, global fisheries catches hit a peak of 130 million tons a year in 1996, and they have been declining strongly since then. This is substantially higher than the data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which report that catches reached 86 million tons in 1996 and have fallen only slightly.

Actually, when you look at the above chart (note the typo on the vertical axis) that compares the two estimates (FAO v Sea Around Us), they appear to track with one another fairly tightly, with the new estimate just consistently higher throughout (roughly 50-60% larger).  But that's the point: if your most closely watched official estimate (FAO) is off by as much as one-third (underestimating the "damage"), then your calculations of fish-population resilience are likely to be significantly off.

Here's the real issue in data collection - a weak global authority relying on the honesty of member countries that are highly incentivized to low-ball their numbers to avoid criticism/penalties/etc.:

The FAO numbers have long been the only estimate of how many tons of fish are caught at a global level. But “the FAO doesn’t have a mandate to correct the data they get,” Pauly told journalists during a conference call.

This leaves the organization reliant mainly on the numbers submitted by member countries, he says, and “the countries have the bad habit to report only the data they see”. This means that many official statistics do not account for a huge amount of the world’s fisheries catch, such as that by small-scale and subsistence fisheries or fish thrown back as ‘discards’—species other than those being hunted.

To fill in the holes in official statistics, Pauly’s team embarked on an epic project to supplement the official baseline data from member nations. This included using results from peer-reviewed research, interviews with local specialists and consumption information from population surveys.

What I really about Pauly's team effort: it goes above and beyond the usual official reporting requirements and attempts to amass bigger data that yields more accurate truths.

 

 

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>