Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP)

Fishing Areas for Statistical Purposes

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.


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


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


Browse FAO Fishing Areas Fact Sheets by map


Regional breakdown of FAO Major Marine Fishing Areas

The internationally accepted standard practice is to divide each of the MAJOR FISHING AREAS into:

first: subareas
second: divisions
third: subdivisions

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.

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.