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Spanish tuna purse seiner
Spanish tuna purse seiner
Courtesy of NOAA/J.Cort

Recognition of the need for fishery statistics: background to the establishment of the CWP

An Expert Meeting on Fishery Statistics in the North Atlantic Area (Edinburgh, Scotland, 22-29 September 1959), sponsored by FAO, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the International Commission for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF --which was the predecessor to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, NAFO), met to establish requirements for fishery statistics for the North Atlantic and to recommend definitions and classifications and the coordination of statistics collection among various international organizations. Seventy participants and observers from 14 countries and international organizations attended the meeting.

The Edinburgh meeting identified statistical needs of fishery scientists (fishery biologists and gear technologists), economists, food technologists, fishery administrators, businessmen and industrial organizations. The requirements were specified primarily as catch quantity and value by species (output) and effective fishing effort (input) and the corresponding economic input statistics specified as to area or fishery.

The Edinburgh meeting proposed common definitions and classifications for the collection of statistics on catches, fishing effort, manpower (fishers) and fishery commodities. It proposed that the reporting system for landing statistics operated by FAO be retained and that ICNAF and ICES use the FAO International Standard Statistical Classification of Aquatic Animals and Plants (ISSCAAP). It further recommended that a standard form be developed for the reporting of catch and associated effort data to ICES, ICNAF and FAO. The forms would be dispatched by FAO to member countries who would return two copies, one to FAO and the other to either ICNAF or ICES, as appropriate. It recommended that the quantity of fish reported as unsorted and unidentified should not exceed ten percent of the total nominal catch of a country or 10 000 tonnes, whichever is less. Where necessary, sampling schemes would be used to determine the species compositions.

The Edinburgh meeting recommended that observer programmes be undertaken to collect data on discards at sea and that conversion factors for the estimation of live weight equivalent catch from landed product weight be estimated nationally and collated by FAO. Importantly, it proposed that the flag of the vessel should be used to determine the country of origin of direct foreign landings and that countries should exchange information on such landings.

Salmon (Salmo salar)
Salmon (Salmo salar)
FAO/Marine Resources Service

The meeting also recommended that governments give increased attention to the regular collection of information on commodity and product output and disposition, including stocks or holdings. It also proposed the FAO International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishery Commodities (ISSCFC) for use in the North Atlantic area and asked FAO to draw the attention of other international organizations interested in fishery commodity statistics to this classification.

It was recommended that price and value statistics for the first point of sale be reported as well as the prices and values of inputs (i.e. costs).

Having specified in great detail the common definitions, classifications and standards that should be used for the collection of fishery statistics for the North Atlantic, it made further specific proposals for a coordinating mechanism to oversee the implementation of the norms and standards:

  • The Meeting invites the Governments of Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, Iceland and the United Kingdom, and ICES, ICNAF and FAO to appoint one expert each to form a continuing Working Party on Fishery Statistics in the North Atlantic area with the power to co-opt additional members to help them in their tasks.
  • The Working Party should keep under continuous review the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of the Meeting, consult with the officers of governments and of international organizations with respect to difficulties encountered and, keeping in mind the actual state of fishery statistical services in the different countries, make suggestions for further national and international action in its field to governments and international organizations as appropriate.
  • The Meeting requests the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to arrange for its Fisheries Division to function as Secretariat for the meetings of this Working Party.

The continuing working party proposed by the Edinburgh meeting was called "CWP" from the beginning.

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