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Prof Daniel Pauly, at the University of British Columbia in Canada and who led the work, said the decline is very strong and "is due to countries having fished too much and having exhausted one fishery after another." Prof Boris Worm, at Dalhousie University in Canada and not involved in the new research said."This was a Herculean task that no one else has ever attempted.It gives us an idea of the overall impact we're having." There are nearly 350 species of seabirds worldwide.Living on both the open ocean and the shoreline, they face overfishing, drowning in fishing lines or nets, plastic pollution, invasive species like rats in nesting areas, oil and gas development and toxic pollution moving up the food chain.
Official catch data from FAO rarely includes small-scale, sport or illegal fishing and does not count fish discarded at sea.The decline since 1996 has largely been in fish caught by industrial fleets and to a lesser extent a cut in the number of unwanted fish discarded at sea."The fact that we catch far more than we thought is, if you like, a more positive thing," he said.Illegal and pirate fishing take place in many parts of the world.
Prof Callum Roberts, at the University of York in the UK and not part of Pauly's team, said: "We can see more clearly now, for example, the immense value of fish to poor people in developing countries," he said.A paper released last month found that 90% of the world's seabirds likely have plastic in their stomachs.