Premieres On Earth Day, Saturday, April 22 at 8PM ET/PT
on Smithsonian Channel
Around the world, millions of people depend on fish for food and livelihood. But what if official government data is drastically underestimating how many fish are being caught? How close are we to a global catastrophe? Government and industry regulators track the quantity of fish caught and claim the oceans can handle it, but global fish numbers have dropped significantly in recent decades. A new Smithsonian Channel special showcases an exhaustive 15-year investigation – from the Atlantic coastline to the reefs of the Bahamas and the shores of Senegal – treveal stark new findings about our marine ecosystems. Narrated by actor and conservationist Ted Danson, a passionate advocate for the world’s oceans.
“AN OCEAN MYSTERY: THE MISSING CATCH” follows Dr. Daniel Pauly and an international team of scientists as they embark on the world’s largest fishing investigation to determine how much fishermen may be overfishing, and just how close we are to a global crash in fish populations. The hour-long film was recently awarded Best Conservation Film at the 2017 International Ocean Film Festival in San Francisco.
Most of the world’s reporting systems rely on data from industrial fishing, which provides only a partial picture. Discovering the true catch required careful detective work, from interrogating local fishermen to investigating pirate fishing boats and poring through historical colonial records. The scientists also found missing figures through sport fishing in the Bahamas, unreported fishing for cod in Canada and illegal fishing in West Africa. Often labelled as “IUU” fishing – illegal, unreported, and unregulated – these activities can result in millions of fish that are overlooked and uncounted in national fisheries numbers.
“AN OCEAN MYSTERY: THE MISSING CATCH” serves as an urgent call to action for governments around the world to take a better accounting of their fish stocks before we face a global food crisis. The results of Dr. Pauly’s research show that the true number of fish caught is drastically underestimated, and prove that without accurate data, it is virtually impossible to manage our fish for the future. Yet despite its dire warning, the research also offers hope that more accurate data and careful management will empower an even greater “peak catch” for the future. “If we were running our fisheries properly, we could catch more than we thought we could,” Dr. Pauly says.
The film highlights a pilot study in Honduras by Dr. Stephen Box, Vice President of Global Fisheries Solutions at Rare, who created a cellphone app that makes it possible to collect comprehensive fishing data as it happens. It allows even the most remote fishermen to send information about how much and what kind of fish they are catching to their national government.