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World map of major fishing areas
World map of major fishing areas
FAO/Fisheries and Aquaculture Statistics and Information Service


Since 1960 the CWP, supported by participating organizations, has served as the premier international and inter-organizational forum for agreeing on common definitions, classifications and standards for the collection of fishery statistics. It has developed common procedures for streamlining statistics collation, reducing the burden on national fisheries statistical offices. It has provided technical advice on fishery statistical matters to participating organizations and has facilitated the publication of methodological and reference documents. In the process the CWP has shaped the statistical programmes of all participating organizations to some extent - and those of FAO in particular - while leaving organizations with complete autonomy in their area of responsibility.

Standardizing systems

By integrating and coordinating the statistical programmes among organizations, the CWP has standardized statistical reporting systems, resulting in the adoption of a reduced number of FAO questionnaires. The work has brought an improvement of both the quantity and quality of fishery statistics and has facilitated the timely submission of statistical data from national offices to the organizations. While the CWP has confined its attention up to 1995 to the development and improvement of Atlantic fishery statistics, its procedures and concepts have served as models for fishing areas in other oceans.

Catch and effort data

Catch and effort data have been collected for different major fishing areas in the Atlantic using questionnaires applying common classifications and definitions and designed to a common style but tailored to the particular needs of the relevant regional fisheries organization. This reduces the burden on countries completing questionnaires for more than one major fishing area by applying common systems and standards. For example, conventions as to the reporting of catches by country in relation to joint venture fishing operations or vessel chartering can be applied universally.

The CWP has provided guidance on the attribution of nationality to catch data and always applied the principle that the "flag of the vessel performing the essential part of the operation catching the fish, should be considered the paramount indication of the nationality assigned to the catch data". The formulation of the criteria for assigning the nationality were was further refined at the Eighteenth Session of CWP and this was described in a paper subsequently published by FAO 1.

The catch and effort questionnaires developed by the CWP, originally called STANA and now called STATLANT, are sent by FAO on behalf of the regional fishery organizations to the relevant national authorities. The CWP has made a major contribution to the specification of measures of fishing effort by gear type.

STATLANT A questionnaires are used for reporting annual nominal catch by species and by statistical sub-area, division or sub-division. STATLANT B questionnaires are used for reporting fishing effort by month, vessel size class, gear and statistical sub-area, division or subdivision and together with associated catch by species. In some cases the species sought (target species) are also specified.

STATLANT A and B questionnaires have been used by CCAMLR to collate statistics for major fishing areas 48, 58 and 88 (Southern Oceans), by NAFO for area 21 (Northwest Atlantic), by ICES for area 27 (Northeast Atlantic), by CECAF for area 34 (Eastern Central Atlantic), and by GFCM for area 37 (Mediterranean and Black Sea). Despite the fact that the Regional Fisheries Advisory Commission for the Southwest Atlantic (CARPAS) has not convened a meeting since 1974 and ICSEAF has ceased to function, FAO still sends STATLANT 41A, 47A and 47B questionnaires and stores the returns; however, not much use is being made of these now and the CWP will need to consider whether continuation of the STATLANT 41 and 47 reporting systems can be justified.

Eurostat requested submissions of catch statistics from EU Member States on STATLANT questionnaires (or in compatible electronic formats) and these questionnaires have been translated into EU legislation. FAO also sends out a STATPAC 87A questionnaire which is similar to the STATLANT A questionnaires but for the Southeast Pacific in conjunction with the Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur.

Changes in the nature of fisheries and in the needs of users of fishery statistics require frequent reviews of statistical systems. For example, the STATLANT B reporting system no longer provides appropriate data for stock assessment purposes in some areas: it has been terminated for the Northeast Atlantic by ICES, for the Mediterranean by GFCM and for the Eastern Central Atlantic by CECAF.

The FishSTAT reporting system is used by FAO to collate global statistics on catch and production from over 240 countries for over 1 000 species of aquatic organisms of significant commercial importance in all inland and marine fishing areas. It is run in parallel with the STATLANT system in areas where the latter is operated. CWP has also concerned itself with reconciling the catch data held by the regional fishery organizations with the FAO FISHSTAT data. At its Eighteenth Session, CWP called for a prototype integrated database of Atlantic catch data incorporating selected data from FAO, ICES, NAFO, ICCAT and CCAMLR to provide comprehensive coverage with as much geographical resolution as possible, and without overlaps. This first prototype of an integrated Atlantic catch database was developed during 2000.

The CWP at its Fifteenth Session considered the problems associated with the collection of fishery statistics but which are accentuated for the high seas (e.g. flags of convenience, trans-shipments, landings into foreign ports, processing at sea) and noted the particular need for special effort and collaboration among national authorities, regional and international organizations to ensure complete and accurate reporting of high seas data. At its Sixteenth Session the CWP considered in some detail the problem of unreliable catch statistics and their implications and how the reliability of catch statistics could be improved.

Map of southeast Pacific
Map of southeast Pacific
FAO/Fisheries and Aquaculture Statistics and Information Service

CWP and aquaculture

The CWP has also contributed to the elaboration of a definition of aquaculture and agreed a common questionnaire (FISHSTAT AQ) for the reporting of aquaculture statistics to FAO and to some of the regional fishery organizations. It was also involved in designing a single inquiry undertaken by FAO on recreational fisheries.

The CWP agreed concepts, definitions and classifications for fishing fleet statistics including the International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishing Vessels (ISSCFV). At its Fifteenth Session the CWP recognized the shortcomings in reported fleet statistics and urged countries to pay particular attention to improving them. The FAO fleet statistics programme was reviewed at the Sixteenth Session.

In its earlier Sessions, the CWP devoted a considerable amount of attention to systems for the collection of commodity and trade statistics, as well as statistics on the disposition of catches. However, in later Sessions with the emphasis shifting more towards coordinating the statistical systems of the regional fishery organizations, commodity, trade and disposition statistics have been considered less despite the Edinburgh Conference having emphasised their importance and the fact that they can often be used for verification of catch statistics, as was stressed by the Technical Consultation on High Seas Fishing (Rome, 7-15 September 1992; paragraph 28). Although commodity, trade and disposition statistics have not recently been the subject of much consideration by the CWP, issues in relation to consumption statistics based on food balance sheets which utilise those statistics, have been addressed. Some organizations (e.g. ICCAT) are using trade data in conjunction with certification of origin to verify catch data for certain species, and NASCO has considered the value of certificates of origin in relation to the problem of fishing for salmon in international waters by non-contracting Parties.

The CWP has also considered ancillary issues such as standard formats to facilitate the exchange of data using electronic media, preparation of the Handbook of Fishery Statistics which is published in English, French and Spanish, and collation by FAO of conversion factors for the estimation of live weight from landed weight. An updated web-based version of the handbook is currently under preparation.

Influence on UN Fish Stocks Agreement

At its Sixteenth Session, CWP reviewed the Draft Agreement being considered by the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, in particular Annex 1, Minimum Standards for Collection and Sharing of Data. In its Report of the Sixteenth Session 2, CWP welcomed the specification of the roles of regional fisheries agencies and flag States in the collection and exchange of data necessary to meet stock assessment requirements and support management objectives. In particular, CWP recognised the importance of the minimum data requirements stipulated in Annex 1 of the Draft Agreement which provide an important specification of the data relevant to the conservation of fish stocks as referred to in the 1982 Convention Article 119(2), as well as the general data requirements specified by the FAO Technical Consultation on High Sea Fishing and the UN Conference on Environment and Development. CWP stressed that the standards in Annex 1 of the Draft Agreement should be considered as the minimum standards for stock assessment and to support management objectives. It was recognised that, for particular fisheries, additional standards might apply. CWP provided further comments on specific points.

The section of the report concerning the Draft Agreement (paragraphs 64-71) was adopted early in the meeting and, together with text explaining the background to the CWP, submitted by FAO as Secretariat for the Working Party to the Chairman of the UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. It was issued to the Fifth Session of the Conference (New York, 27 March - 12 April 1995) on 27 March as United Nations General Assembly Document A/CONF.164/INF/13 in all UN official languages.

According to Doulman 3, there was considerable discussion at the UN Conference as to what standing the annexes of the draft Agreement should have, with some delegations arguing that they should not be binding. Referring to the CWP text submitted to the Conference, Doulman states "this strong and unambiguous support from the world's major fishery bodies indicated clearly the need for the specification of minimum standards in the draft Agreement". It was agreed finally that Annexes 1 and 2 would be an integral part of the Agreement, and thus be binding. Article 48 of the Agreement specifies that the Annexes to the Agreement may be revised from time to time by States Parties based on scientific and technical considerations. The Agreement 4 was adopted by the Conference at its Sixth Session on 4 August 1995 and has 59 signatories.

1 Edeson, W.R. 1999. Legal aspects of the collection of fisheries data. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 953. Rome, FAO. 18p.
2 FAO. Report of the Sixteenth Session of the Coordinating Working Party on Atlantic Fishery Statistics. Madrid, Spain, 20-25 March 1995. FAO Fisheries Technical Report No. 521. Rome, FAO. 1995. 50p.
3 Doulman, D.J. Structure and Process of the 1993-1995 United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 898. Rome, FAO. 1995. 81p.
4 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

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