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Seeking Ways to Reduce Overfishing

From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report in Special English.The pressure to feed Asia's growing population has led to dangerous levels of overfishing near Pacific coastlines.An example can be found in Sindangan, a fishing town in the southern Philippines. Wild catches are falling while prices are rising. One fisherman says the area's once healthy fish stocks are in danger because of an increase in the number of fishing boats.

Across the South China Sea, fish catches near shore have dropped since the 1980s. That drop has pushed fishermen farther offshore and into bigger boats. An official with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, says some fishing methods are destructive.

Benjamin Francisco says the use of fine mesh nets or explosives catch young fish before they can ever reproduce. This hurts fish stocks. The fish warden in Sindangan says most of the local fishermen use fine mesh nets. But these nets have been banned for years because they catch very young fish.

To deal with problems like this the FAO has been supporting the idea of licensing systems. The aim is to limit the number of fishing boats on the water. Asia has the world's largest fishing fleets. They represent nearly three million of the world's four million fishing vessels. And most estimates say that the numbers are increasing.

In Hong Kong, there are increased efforts to supervise fleets and to ban trawling for fish near shore. More than $200 million is being spent in an effort to increase catches by small fishing operations. But Hong Kong's measures are costly. FAO official Benjamin Francisco says a lot of governments in Asia do not have enough money or the ability to copy them.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal.