WASHINGTON – How many fish in the sea?

No one really knows, but which ones are counted and how often they’re examined depends on where you live, a new study by Congress’ watchdog concludes.

An analysis by the Government Accountability Office released Friday found wide variations in how frequently fish stock assessments are conducted, chiefly based on geography. Counts in Alaska, for example, far outnumber those in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Atlantic.

Fish counts are critical because they’re used by regional councils to set recreational and commercial fishing rules in coastal waters. How they’re conducted and what they report are at the center of an ongoing debate between a $100 billion maritime industry that wants to relax catch limits and environmental advocates who want to prevent overfishing.

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