Home > Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP) > CWP Handbook > Aquaculture statistics
Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP)

Content under revision

(see NOTE below)

Aquaculture statistics

In consultation with pertinent bodies, FAO and the CWP have formulated a working definition of aquaculture activities for statistical purposes.

Definition of Aquaculture

Aquaculture: Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms: fish, molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic plants, crocodiles, alligators, turtles, and amphibians. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated. For statistical purposes, aquatic organisms which are harvested by an individual or corporate body which has owned them throughout their rearing period contribute to aquaculture, while aquatic organisms which are exploitable by the public as a common property resource, with or without appropriate licences, are the harvest of capture fisheries.

Definition of culture environments

Freshwater Culture: By freshwater culture is understood the cultivation of aquatic organisms where the end product is raised in freshwater, such as reservoirs, rivers, lakes, canals and groundwater, in which the salinity does not normally exceed 0.5‰. Earlier stages of the life cycle of these aquatic organisms may be spent in brackish or marine waters.

Brackishwater Culture: By brackishwater culture is understood the cultivation of aquatic organisms where the end product is raised in brackishwater, such as estuaries, coves, bays, lagoons and fjords, in which the salinity may lie or generally fluctuate between 0.5‰ and full strength seawater. If these conditions do not exist or have no effect on cultural practices, production should be recorded under either "Freshwater culture" or "Mariculture". Earlier stages of the life cycle of these aquatic organisms may be spent in fresh or marine waters.

Mariculture: By mariculture is understood that the cultivation of the end product takes place in seawater, such as fjords, inshore and open waters and inland seas in which the salinity generally exceeds 20‰. Earlier stages in the life cycle of these aquatic organisms may be spent in brackishwater or freshwater.

Definition of ongrowing units

Ponds and tanks are artificial units of varying sizes constructed above or below ground level capable of holding and interchanging water. Rate of exchange of water is usually low, i.e. not exceeding 10 changes per day.

Enclosures and pens refer to water areas confined by net, mesh and other barriers allowing uncontrolled water interchange and distinguished by the fact that enclosures occupy the full water column between substrate and surface; pens and enclosures will generally enclose a relatively large volume of water.

Cages refer to open or covered enclosed structures constructed with net, mesh or any porous material allowing natural water interchange. These structures may be floating, suspended, or fixed to the substrate but still permitting water interchange from below.

Raceways and silos are artificial units constructed above or below ground level capable of high rates of water interchange in excess of 20 changes per day.

Barrages are semi-permanent or seasonal enclosures formed by impervious man-made barriers and appropriate natural features.

Rice-cum-fish paddiesr efer to paddy fields used for the culture of rice and aquatic organisms; rearing them in rice paddies to any marketable size.

Rafts, ropes, stakes refer to the culture of shellfish, notably mussels, and seaweeds usually conducted in open waters using rafts, long lines or stakes. The stakes are impaled in the seabed in inter-tidal areas and ropes are suspended in deeper waters from rafts or buoys.

Hatcheries refer to installations for housing facilities for breeding, nursing and rearing seed of fish, invertebrates or aquatic plants to fry, fingerlings or juvenile stages.

Nurseries refer generally to the second phase in the rearing process of aquatic organisms and refer to small, mainly outdoor ponds and tanks.

Other definitions

To help classifying ambiguous practices it should be noted that:

(a) by sea-ranching is understood the harvest of enhanced capture fisheries, i.e. the raising of aquatic animals, mainly for human consumption, under extensive production systems, in open space (oceans, lakes) where they grow using natural food supplies. These animals may be released by national authorities and re-captured by fishermen as wild animals, either when they return to the release site e.g. salmon, or elsewhere (seabreams, flatfishes).

(b) the production of wild-caught fish raised temporarily in holding facilities is considered as enhanced capture.


To promote the monitoring of aquaculture in an internationally harmonised manner and separate aquaculture activities from capture fisheries, a classification is presented at the following link: Annex J. I.

Structural data on aquaculture are collected by the statistical questionnaire FISHSTAT AQ and aquaculture production by FISHSTAT NS AQ.


Data for mariculture, aquaculture and other kinds of fish farming were previously presented in the Series "FAO Fisheries Circular" No. 815 up to revision No. 11. Rome, 1999.

Beginning with Volume 82 (printed in 1998) data on aquaculture were included in the Series "FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics".

Beginning with Volume 86 (printed in 2000) the aquaculture production is presented in the even-numbered volumes of the "FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics .../2."

FAO. "Aquaculture production, 2001". FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics - Vol.92/2 Rome, FAO. 2003 186p.

Rana, K. J. "Guidelines on the collection of structural aquaculture statistics" FAO Statistical Development Series 5b, Rome, 1997.

Resources for Aquaculture statistics

Classification proposed for various aquaculture and capture fisheries practices (former ANNEX J.I)


A new section to address the aquaculture statistics is being prepared by the CWP Aquaculture Subject Group. The final version shall be approved by upcoming CWP Session (CWP 26th Session to be held early in 2019) for posterior publication. For further information please consult the CWP Report of the Fifth Meeting of the Aquaculture Subject Group and the Twenty-Sixth Meeting of the Fisheries Subject Group.