Alarming status of the world’s fish supply discussed by science journalists

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Internews, Seoul, South Korea

At the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2015) in Seoul, South Korea in April, the Internews Earth Journalism Network (EJN) worked with its partner the Japan Association of Science and Technology Journalists (JASTJ) to hold a panel on how to report on sustainable fisheries, moderated by EJN Executive Director James Fahn.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Ken Weiss kicked off the session with a multimedia presentation outlining the current alarming status of global fish stocks, and offered tips on how journalists can create engaging stories out of a subject that, despite its importance, seems distant to most audiences.

Liam Lee, the chief international correspondent for Ta Kung Pao daily newspaper, described the situation in China, where local seas have largely been fished out or damaged by pollution. He reported that last year, the country’s deep sea fishing fleet of 2,460 vessels captured over two million tons of seafood, a four-fold increase since the year 2000. But aquaculture has also grown substantially and now accounts for three quarters of China’s fishery production.

Japanese author Ayumu Katano noted how his country’s fishery policies have struggled to adapt since the 1980s, when its landings (quantities of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic plants and animals brought ashore and sold) peaked. Since then both its fishing fleet’s catch and its aquaculture production has gone down. “Out of the 400 to 500 species that the Japanese catches, only seven species are managed by a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) system,” says Katano, who argued that the TAC approach should be expanded and based on transferable quotas like those used elsewhere.

JASTJ reporter Minako Takizawa wrapped up the panel by describing how one Japanese village, Omoe, was able to cultivate and maintain sustainable fishing practices.