'Go Fishing' no game for inland waters worldwide

Fish pulled from the world's lakes and rivers seem to provide a never-ending source of food, jobs and income for people in developing nations.

But there's a hook: As one species is depleted, the next species is targeted. While total catch may remain high, overexploitation of the world's fish supply is rapidly threatening biodiversity and balance of the ecosystem, according to new research in December's issue of BioScience.

"Overfishing of inland waters is a neglected crisis," said Dr. Kirk Winemiller, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station fish researcher.

Winemiller studied the issue of decreasing inland fish numbers with J. David Allan, University of Michigan; Robin Abell, World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C.; Zeb Hogan, University of Wisconsin; Carmen Revenga, The Nature Conservancy; Brad Taylor, University of Wyoming; and Robin Welcomme of the Long Barn in Suffolk, England.

The team said it will take local people working with fisheries experts to develop plans to co-manage the "critically harvested" bodies of water.

But netting human actions with ecosystem-based fisheries management may be long in developing. A major reason is the lack of attention paid to the problem, Winemiller said.

Although many studies have documented over-fishing to be a major cause of the decline of global fisheries, most of the focus is on oceans with inland waters rarely mentioned, Winemiller said. Yet, he said, fish from inland waters are more threatened than those in oceans.

Reason for little attention is because not enough information has been gathered, he said, and because many factors overlap and intertwine to threaten these areas.

"Tens of millions of people in developing countries fish inland waters for food and to earn a living," Winemiller said. "Typically, fishing pressure shifts from species to species as preferred types or those more easily captured decline in number.

"So, the overall catch appear

Contact: Kathleen Phillips
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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