New BBC documentary spotlights ICIJ probe into fish devastation

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The Willem van der Zwan is one of 25 EU-flagged vessels represented by the Dutch-based Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association. Ships like this catch fish with nets that measure up to 82 feet by 262 feet at the opening.

Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

As aggressive, unregulated fishing continues in the South Pacific, BBC World News will broadcast this weekend a documentary that features the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ recent probe into the plundering of jack mackerel, once one of the world’s most abundant fish.

Jack mackerel might not be familiar at the supermarket fish counter, but you have probably eaten it unaware in bites of farmed salmon. Much of jack mackerel is reduced to feed for pigs and aquaculture. It can take more than 5 kilos of jack mackerel to raise a single kilo of salmon.

The ICIJ investigation revealed that greed, mismanagement and lack of regulation have devastated the fishery — it went from 30 million metric tons to 3 million in just two decades.

The world’s largest trawlers, after depleting other fisheries, headed south to scoop up their catch before regulations were passed. But it’s been seven years since efforts started to create a regional fisheries management organization, and key fishing nations still have not ratified the convention, notably Peru, Chile and China.

Without binding limits, industrial fleets bound only by voluntary restraints compete in what amounts to a free-for-all in no man’s water.

The documentary “Looting the Pacific” was produced by London-based tve for BBC World News.

"Looting the Pacific" will broadcast at the following times:

Saturday, April 21, at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 22, at 2:30 am, 3:30 p.m. (all times GMT)

BBC World News broadcast times vary around the world. For details of transmissions in your region, check the BBC World News website.

Be sure to read a reporter’s notebook by project manager Mort Rosenblum, who talks about his experience reporting the story with a multi-country team.