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Half of Global Fish Catch May Have Gone Unreported, Study Says

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Up to half of the global fish catch between 1950 and 2010 may have of unreported, according to new research. The finding adds to growing evidence about the vulnerability of the global fish supply to unsustainable practices.

The new study, published in Nature Communications, provides an unofficial update to numbers collected by The Food and Agriculture Organization, a branch of the United Nations. The U.N. reports have listed total fish catches as zero in regions and times when local authorities could not provide solid information.

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Researchers for the new study collected data from more than 50 institutions to fill in the gaps in U.N. reports. The new research shows that global fish catches peaked at more than 140 million tons in 1996. The total catch was 120 tons in 2010, the most recent year available, according to the new study. That’s 30% higher than the U.N. estimates.

“The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn or the remaining balance,” said study author Daniel Pauly, a professor at the University of British Columbia, in a press release. “Better estimating the amount we’re taking out can help ensure there is enough fish to sustain us in the future.”

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Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com