In last weeks Population News I reported that the FAOs State of Food and Agriculture 1997 report outlined how, contrary to some environmentalist claims, world fish catches continue to improve. Science writer Michael Fumento wrote a column a few weeks ago showing how groups such as Population Action make the fisheries situation appear dire by only reporting on part of the story.
Fumento quotes Population Actions Robert Engelman as saying, “Were up against the wall. Since the end of the 80s, weve been catching the same amount of wild fish around the world, [but] there are about 90 million more people every year.”
As Fumento notes, the problem is in Engelmans qualifying his statement with the world “wild.” Yes wild fish catches have stabilized, largely because aquaculture has taken off dramatically from a mere 6,933 thousand tons in 1984 to 15,800 tons by 1993. If you combine both wild and farmed fish, total fish catches grew 24% from 1984-1993 while world population grew only 16%.
Fumento cites a United Nations report that continuing to feed the world the same per capita level of fish would require “an overall average increase of less than one million tons a year,” a level at which growth in aquaculture is currently far exceeding, growing by almost two million tons annually in recent years.
What Population Action is doing is akin to counting available food only by measuring wheat and rice that occur naturally in the wild while ignoring the human innovation we call agriculture. When it comes to reporting on fish, Population Action is all wet.