Monday, September 27, 2010

WWF SA Perpetuates a Myth

Earlier in September, the WWF-SA supported the launch of the film "End of the Line" which premises its forecast that most commercial fishing stocks will be fished to extinction by 2048, which is itself based on a 2006 paper in Nature by authors Worm et al. The Worm et al paper's major scientific claims have since been heavily rebutted globally and even the authors themselves have accepted that their paper's claim about 2048 is flawed. But WWF (and incidentally Investec) continued to support a film whose message is a lie and a fraud committed against seafood consumers. As an aside, one must question whether Investec would proffer advice to their clients knowing the advice to be false or widely contradicted and therefore unreliable?

In response to a Cape Times article titled "SA Scientists slam no-fish-by-2048 claim made in film" (reference to the "End of the Line" film), the WWF's Samantha Petersen continued to assert the myth that "80% of the world's fish stocks were either exploited to their maximum, over-exploited or collapsed according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation."

Is this really true? Does the FAO data show that 80% of fish stocks are in such great peril as the WWF would scare us into believing? No. The FAO data shows that some 27% of fish stocks are either overexploited (19%) or depleted (8%). A further 70% of fish stocks are maximally exploited (52%) and moderately exploited (18%). One percent of global fish stocks that were depleted are recovering. The fact that the absolute majority of global fish stocks (52%) are maximally exploited is confirmation of responsible and appropriate fisheries management systems. The objective of responsible fisheries management is to strike a balance between providing access to an important food source which fish is and maintaining the health of the marine ecosystem. Maximum catch limits and maximum effort allocations seek to ensure this balance. The recovery of depleted and overexploited fish stocks remains an international commitment.

In South Africa, of our 22 commercial fisheries, the traditional linefishery remains in state of "environmental emergency" with some 39 commercial and recreational line fish species considered being collapsed but these species have been subject to comprehensive recovery and management plans since 2001. In addition, abalone - having been on CITES Appendix III - remains a fishery of great concern principally as there is no reliable science on the status of the species and because it remains the most heavily poached fishery in the world. It is interesting and important to note that none of the large commercial fisheries are considered to be in peril or overexploited or in any way poorly managed.

The WWF's insistence on harvesting a false fear about the imminent collapse 80% of fish stocks must raise questions about its commitment to responsible environmental management.


  1. Your third paragraph doesn't appear to make sense. You say that the WWF quote a figure for maximum exploited AND over exploited of 80%, which you claim is not born out by the stats. Then you then say that the FAO figures say that 27% are overexploited and 52% are maximally exploited. Well 27 + 52 is ~80%. So the FAO figures do appear to support the WWF accession. Or is my maths wrong?

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