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Review of the State of World Fishery Resources: Marine Fisheries

As partial fulfilment of the Organization's role with regards to the monitoring and reporting on global marine resources and relevant environmental and ecological changes, the FAO prepares the Review of the state of world marine fishery resources. The main objective of this review is to provide the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) and more generally, policy-makers, civil society and those who derive their livelihood from fisheries and/or have a direct interest in the conservation and management of world fishery resources with a comprehensive, objective and global review of the state of the living marine resources of the oceans.

FAO monitors the state of exploitation of close to 600 main fish stocks or groups of resources for which assessment information is available.

World resources by area

Each regional review is based on an FAO statistical area and comprises three main sections: an introduction, a profile of catches and a section on resource status and management.

The introduction describes the key geographical features and attributes of the physical environment found within the specific FAO statistical area. This section also contains a brief summary of the main points of current interest or concern within the FAO statistical area, whether they arise from long-term trends or patterns or recent changes in the fisheries.

The profile of catches draws on the long-time series of catches on data recently collected into a single database by FAO to give a sense of the historical scale, development and relative importance of the various types of fisheries found within each FAO statistical area.

The resource status and management section - the main focus of each regional review - describes recent developments within specific fisheries. The structure varies to reflect the most appropriate basis upon which to separate the resources into meaningful components. In certain FAO statistical areas, separation into Exclusive Economic Zones is used, while in others a distinction is made according to resource type (e.g. demersal, pelagic). Yet reporting on other areas follow the approach used by organization(s) charged with assessing or managing marine resources in that specific area.

Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)
Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)
FAO/Marine Resources Service

Wherever possible, the results of stock assessments are used to make quantitative comments on resource status directly. However, in many fisheries, particularly those which have developed recently, such information is not available. In such cases qualitative information may be presented. Additionally, in instances where catches are believed to be indicative of stock status, quantitative catches data may be discussed. The description and analyses of state of exploitation given in these sections make use of the best information currently available to FAO.

Catch data

For each FAO statistical area a table containing catch data for each year from 1996 to 2002 and ten-year averages from 1950 to 1999 is given in Marine Resources Tables. Also contained in these tables are annotations on the state of exploitation of each resource. A certain degree of care must be taken in interpreting these annotations because they are given on a species-by-species basis, rather than for individual stocks. It is typically the case that within each FAO statistical area the catches of a given species will come from two or more distinct stocks. It is often the case that the state of exploitation of such separate stocks is different. In such instances the "state of exploitation" indicators in the table should be checked against the main narrative within the appropriate "resource status and management" section for further details. Given this distinction between species and individual stocks, it can be seen that the "state of exploitation" notes have limited statistical significance from a fisheries management point of view and are intended as "rule of thumb" indicators only.

It should also be noted that, while FAO believes that the principal marine species which are, or have been, the subject of exploitation are represented in the tables, the majority of species which contribute to many marine fisheries in lesser quantities are not included.

High profile resources

Special sections address the global issue of tunas and tuna-like species and other high profile resources such as those dealing with world squid resources, deep-sea fisheries and  long-term climate change and fisheries. Summary tables are provided for each statistical area showing historical and recent catches for the major marine resources and judgements on their most current state of exploitation.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) includes sections relevant to resources which are regularly updated.

Highly migratory and straddling stocks

The adoption of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (FSA) in 1995 and its entering into force in 2001 has led to the implementation of measures that are expected to be beneficial in the medium to long term to species fished on the high seas. In relation to this, the state of the world highly migratory fish stocks, straddling fish stocks, stocks of other high seas fishery resources and stocks of associated species has been reviewed and a global overview prepared. This document is a revised, expanded and updated version of a technical document provided in November 2005 to the UN Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) as one of FAO’s contribution to the preparation of the report of the UN Secretary General to the Review Conference on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the UN 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, New York, 22–26 May 2006, in accordance with paragraph 17 of the General Assembly resolution 59/25, to assist the Review Conference to implement its mandate under paragraph 2, article 36 of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (UN General Assembly document A/Conf.210/2006/1). This document is also intended to supplement the information contained in the report to the above-mentioned Review Conference.

Monitoring world fisheries resources

The Department is one of FIRMS partners, and contributes to the system the global assessments as laid out in the 'Review of the state of world fishery resources', as well as the regional assessments undertaken through FAO regional fishery commissions.

Review of the state of world fishery resources: inland fisheries

Based on on-going studies and analyses, the Department monitors inland fisheries and regularly reports on inland fisheries development and trends.

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