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These guidelines aim to help those who design routine data collection programmes. Previous guides are updated in the light of:

· recent international initiatives to promote responsible fisheries;

· increasing consideration of economic and socio-cultural issues in fisheries policy-making and management;

· technological developments which can enhance data collection and processing.

The guidelines focus on the relationship between typical questions asked by policy-makers and managers and the data required for providing reliable answers.


The objectives of these Guidelines are:

· to facilitate Governments and fisheries management authorities to undertake routine data collection and processing necessary for effective monitoring and management of capture fisheries and, in particular, for implementing the relevant articles of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries1 (CCRF), the UN Fish Stocks Agreement2 (FSA) and the FAO Compliance Agreement3 (CA) (see UN/FAO, 1998);

· to provide a summary of links between typical policy and management questions and the data necessary to provide the answers;

· to provide a guide for organising an effective and sustainable data collection programme.

1 FAO. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome, FAO. 1995. 41p.

2 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (see Annex 1). As of May 1998, this had not yet come into force.

3 Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas.


Intention: The Guidelines are intended to help individuals and institutions go through a logical design cycle, not to provide a manual of data collection methods. The document focuses on the pathway from decisions on the policy and management plan for a fishery, through collection of data types required to support the plan, how these data should be collected and associated database needs, to the overall implementation process. Examples of performance indicators, data variables and collection methods are provided, but the document primarily highlights the linkages between these components. Hence, the guidelines provide a framework, which can be used to develop and assess data collection programmes.

Included: The document only deals with routine data collection for capture fisheries. The most important sources of data are long-term regular information gathering on fishing fleet statistics, fishing effort and associated catches, landings in weight and value, biological sampling of the catches, variable trip costs, and crew data. The guidelines also cover irregular data collection or data collection less frequent than trip-level, such as fishery censuses, cost and earnings studies, resource surveys and food surveys.

Excluded: Data collection for aquaculture is excluded. The other types of data not covered are those used to formulate new methods or models in self-contained programmes, which cannot be considered routine. These include experimental or research data such as growth and mortality data from tagging experiments, stock unit information, growth parameters and other scientific data.


Much has been written on the collection of fishery data. However, since these texts were produced there have been several important developments.

· Experiences of successes and failures with data collection schemes have led to a renewed emphasis on sustainability of systems through cost-effective, rather than ambitious, data gathering methodologies.

· Computers with powerful data handling tools have become widely available, thus increasing the level of detail that can be collected, stored and processed cheaply.

· Communications have improved and become cheaper. Detailed monitoring of fishing activity [e.g. using a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)] can be used to improve data quality. Cheaper and faster exchange of fishery data (e.g. national collation of locally collected data) can provide more up-to-date information.

· There is increasing emphasis on economic and socio-cultural data collection necessary to answer many management questions which biological data alone cannot address.

· In many artisanal fisheries, top-down national management structures have proved inadequate, and participatory management is increasingly seen as a way to improve data collection within limited budgets.

· The transboundary nature of many fish stocks requires regional research and management that can only be effectively addressed through the analysis of complementary data sets to ensure complete coverage (CCRF 7.3.1 & 7.3.2). Likewise, the need to address some fisheries through ecosystem research (e.g. Large Marine Ecosystems) requires data sets covering the entire system.

· There are increasing needs to meet international requirements in terms of variable definitions, classifications, statistical stratification and standards. These require careful consideration of data collection programmes.

The guidelines update advice given previously on data collection procedures. While data collection has the same theoretical basis, the practical methodologies and procedures have changed in the light of experience and technological developments. The present guidelines are intended to cover the full spectrum of data types addressed in previous publications as well as address the need for integrating other types of information (i.e. economic and socio-cultural).

It should be noted that there are other Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries, including those issued on Fishing Operations (1), Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions (2), Integration of Fisheries with Coastal Area Management (3), Fisheries Management (4) and Inland Fisheries (6) with relevant sections on capture fisheries data collection. Many of the issues raised there are discussed in this document in greater detail, as well as being placed in the context of the practical implementation of a collection system.

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