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1. FAO Major Fishing Areas

For statistical purposes, 27 major fishing areas have been internationally established to date. These comprise

- eight major inland fishing areas covering the inland waters of the continents,

- nineteen major marine fishing areas covering the waters of the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans, with their adjacent seas.

The major fishing areas, inland and marine, are listed below by two-digit codes and their names. To access maps and description of boundaries of each fishing area click on the relevant item in the list below or in the map showing the 19 major marine fishing areas.

01Africa - Inland waters
02America, North - Inland waters
03America, South - Inland waters
04Asia - Inland waters
05Europe - Inland waters
06Oceania - Inland waters
07Former USSR area - Inland waters *
08Antarctica - Inland waters

The fishing area 07 ("Former USSR area - Inland waters") referred to the area that was formerly the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Starting with the data for 1988, information for each new independent Republic is shown separately. The new independent Republics are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan (statistics assigned to the fishing area "Asia - Inland waters") and Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine (statistics assigned to the fishing area "Europe - Inland waters").

18Arctic Sea
21Atlantic, Northwest
27Atlantic, Northeast
31Atlantic, Western Central
34Atlantic, Eastern Central
37Mediterranean and Black Sea
41Atlantic, Southwest
47Atlantic, Southeast
48Atlantic, Antarctic
51Indian Ocean, Western
57Indian Ocean, Eastern
58Indian Ocean, Antarctic and Southern
61Pacific, Northwest
67Pacific, Northeast
71Pacific, Western Central
77Pacific, Eastern Central
81Pacific, Southwest
87Pacific, Southeast
88Pacific, Antarctic

2. Regional breakdown of FAO Major Marine Fishing Areas

The internationally accepted standard practice is to divide each of the major fishing areas into:


Such systems of subareas, divisions and subdivisions have been successfully developed and implemented in the Atlantic Ocean by ICNAF, the predecessor of NAFO, for major fishing area 21, by ICES for area 27, by CECAF for area 34, by GCFM for area 37, by CARPAS for area 41, by ICSEAF for area 47, by CPPS for area 87 in the Pacific Ocean, and by CCAMLR for areas 48, 58 and 88 in the Antarctic.

The Joint Working Party of Experts on Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Fishery Statistics (JWP) by 1978 established subareas for statistical purposes through the IOFC (for areas 51 and 57 in the Indian Ocean) and through the IPFC (for areas 71 and 81 in the Western Pacific; subareas for these two areas were never fully described and are not shown in the relevant pages).

No breakdown by subareas has yet been established for areas 18, 31, 61, 67 and 77.

Partitions of their area of competence implemented for statistical purposes by the tuna regional bodies are often encompassing more than one major fishing area and are not considered here and in the description of single areas.

Several CWP members have recently modified the original partition within the relevant FAO Major Fishing Area. These are ICES (area 27), GFCM (area 37), FAO and SEAFO (area 47), and FAO on behalf of RECOFI (part of area 51). Whereas changes in boundaries between major fishing areas should be approved by CWP and comply with conditions mentioned in Section G of this Handbook, modifications of subareas, divisions and subdivisions within a major fishing area do not need a formal CWP approval but should be communicated to maintain the Handbook updated.

3. Development sequence of FAO Major Marine Fishing Areas

Boundaries of fishing areas established for statistical purposes have gone through a series of modifications since the first world chart was presented in Volume VI of the FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics (1956). A series of historical fishing area maps is made available to assist the interested users in matching the historical data included in the FAO capture production database with the major fishing areas in place at that time.
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