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FAO Major Fishing Areas for Statistical Purposes are arbitrary areas, the boundaries of which were determined in consultation with international fishery agencies on various considerations, including (i) the boundary of natural regions and the natural divisions of oceans and seas; (ii) the boundaries of adjacent statistical fisheries bodies already established in inter-governmental conventions and treaties; (iii) existing national practices; (iv) national boundaries; (v) the longitude and latitude grid system; (vi) the distribution of the aquatic fauna; and (vii) the distribution of the resources and the environmental conditions within an area.

The rationale of the FAO Major Fishing Areas has been that the areas should, as far as possible, coincide with the areas of competence of other fishery commissions when existing. This system facilitates comparison of data, and improves the possibilities of cooperation in statistical matters in general.

The boundaries of FAO Major Fishing Areas could be modified and adjusted according to new requirements, but it is inadvisable to introduce too frequent amendments to the already established areas. Revisions to boundaries should only be introduced after consultation with all the national fishery authorities and fishery agencies concerned with the areas under revision. The Twenty-second session of the CWP (2007, Rome, Italy) reconfirmed that there are three major conditions to be met before implementing a change in boundaries between major fishing areas: a) no country should object the proposed change; b) no RFB should object the change and effort should be made to reconcile boundaries between RFBs jurisdictions and those of the FAO Major Fishing Areas for Statistical Purposes; and c) countries involved in the proposed change should be able to provide to FAO revision of historical capture statistics according to new boundary.

Unless there are other over-riding reasons, boundaries lines should be drawn along 5° lines of longitude and latitude.

Marine and inland waters

It is difficult to derive adequate definitions for these terms. MARINE WATERS are frequently equated with "salt-waters" and INLAND WATERS with "fresh-waters". However there are heavily saline or brackish waters (lakes, lagoons, estuaries, etc.) that are classified nationally as parts of the inland waters. Certain maritime regions have very low salinities and might include mainly freshwater estuaries and other areas, influenced by river outflows, as well as various brackishwater areas. The salinity of such areas may be subject to very great diurnal and seasonal variations.

The CWP has therefore decided that, for the completion of STATLANT, STATPAC and FISHSTAT questionnaires, it is for the national authorities to decide on the boundaries between marine and inland areas appropriate to the national situation. Attention was again focused on the problem at the Fourteenth Session of the CWP (1990, Paris, France) in connection with the need to distinguish between catches and culture in inland waters.

Marine WatersThe term "MARINE WATERS" is intended to refer to oceans and seas including adjacent saltwater areas.

Inland WatersThe term "INLAND WATERS" may be used to refer to lakes, rivers, brooks, streams, ponds, inland canals, dams, and other land-locked (usually freshwater) waters (such as the Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, etc.).

Internal waters

Internal WatersArticle 8 of the Informal Composite Negotiating Text / Revision 2 (A/CONF.62/WP.10/Rev. 2, 11 April 1980) of the United Nations Third Conference on the Law of the Sea assigns a specific meaning to the term "INTERNAL WATERS" as part of the sea. This UNCLOS article considers INTERNAL WATERS as those waters of the sea on the landward side of the baseline used by the national authorities of the coastal country to measure further seawards the width of the territorial sea and any adjacent marine waters, whether salt, brackish, or fresh in character. Such "internal" marine waters will be found, for instance, when the baselines are drawn across the mouths of bays or along a "curtain"of islands lying close off the coast. Japan's well-known "Inland Sea" is not part of that country's inland waters but is one of the internal waters of Japan and forms part of the truly marine fishing areas of that country.

To assist a uniform use of these terms, the following translations are given:

Inland watersEaux continentalesAguas continentales
Internal watersEaux intérieuresAguas interiores

Areal grid system

Recognizing the need for areal breakdown, the CWP has suggested that a graticule-based system could be used throughout the globe and has recommended that the quadrangles (also called rectangles or squares) be coded and identified according to the following standard rules:

a) the identification of the latitude should be given before that of the longitude;

b) each quadrangle (rectangle) should be identified by its graticule-based boundaries as defined by the latitude and the longitude meeting in its corner nearest to the point where the Equator is crossed by the Greenwich Meridian;

c) the foregoing data on latitude and longitude should be preceded by (i) the first digit identifying the size of the quadrangle and then by (ii) a second digit indicating the quadrant of the globe in which the quadrangle is located.

The following Tables show how this graticule coding should be achieved.

Coding of graticule system for identifying statistical quadrangles

Format of the code identifying statistical quadrangles
A. Code to indicate size of quadrangle.
B. Code to indicate quadrant
CodeQuadrant of Globe

Certain agencies have found the need for an areal breakdown other than that offered by the coding system; for example, for a quadrangle of 30′ latitude by 1 degree longitude or for a finer breakdown than the smallest quadrangle identified by this coding system, namely 10′ x 10′. The CWP has therefore recommended the following standard coding procedures for areas smaller than 1 degree quadrangles:

(1) where the 1 degree quadrangle is divided into two halves, each 30′ latitude by 60′ longitude, the one nearest to the Equator is coded number 1, and the other number 2.

(2) where the 1 degree quadrangle is divided into four quarters, each 30′ x 30′, the numbering depends on the quadrant in order to follow the latitude/longitude hierarchical structure, e.g.:

3) the code "0" will be used to indicate that it is not possible to show the data at a breakdown below the 1 degree quadrangle.

The structure of a code for identifying the size and location of a unit quadrangle of less than 1° by 1° could be presented as follows:
ASize code unit quadrangle of less than 1° X 1°
BQuadrant code
CLatitude identifying 1x1 quadrangle
DLongitude identifying 1x1 quadrangle
EPosition of the unit quadrangle of less than 1° X 1° within the 1 X 1 degree quadrangle

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