Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP)

Capture fisheries statistics

Capture fisheries are characterized by wide diversification which reflects each fishery’s purpose and adaptation to regional, economic and cultural factors. Fisheries are conducted in marine, brackish and freshwater environments and may involve subsistence, artisanal, industrial and recreational fishery sectors. Some fisheries require the use of fishing vessels while other fisheries may be land-based. The catch may be used solely by fishers and their families or traded amongst communities or markets. In addition, some fisheries may be integrated with aquaculture, such as the collection of wild-caught fish for subsequent rearing in cages or the release of fingerlings in fish restocking operations.

Each capture fishery may be characterized by a specific set of activities which relate to the type of fishing gear used, the target species, the fishing area (i.e. fishing zone or ground) and the flag of the fishing vessel (when used) or nationality of the fisher. These activities may include some or all of the following:

  • searching for, attracting, locating, catching, taking or harvesting fish or any activity which can reasonably be expected to result in the attracting, locating, catching, taking or harvesting of fish
  • supporting, or preparing for, fishing, including the landing, packaging, processing, transshipping or transporting of fish that have not been previously landed at a port, as well as the provisioning of personnel, fuel, gear and other supplies at sea.

Fisheries are an economic sector of society and fisheries statistics are required for effective policy-making and sectoral planning.

Purpose

Capture fisheries statistics fall into three categories: (1) statistics documenting the removal of fish and other aquatic organisms, (2) statistics documenting the fishing effort and the fleets that exploit the resources and (3) statistics documenting the labor force, income, costs and invested capital that are used in this exploitation.

Capture fisheries statistics are essential as a basis for describing the contribution of fisheries to the national food supply and the economy (e.g. through the system of national economic accounts). Policy-making often is done with one or more of the following objectives:

  • to assure that exploitation is within sustainable limits and in general in accordance with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
  • to sustainably harvest fish for domestic requirements
  • to develop exports (foreign currency income to the country)
  • to improve the socio-economic conditions of fishers
  • to promote the sustainable expansion of fisheries (improve the economy of the country).

The relationships between capture fisheries statistics and the essential policy objectives are key determining factors in analyzing the needs for fishery information. Fisheries statistics are also required in relation to monitoring, surveillance and control of the exploitation of the resources.

The focus in best practice fisheries management is the conservation and sustainability of natural resources using an ecosystem approach, food supply security and maximization of economic performance through the control of fishing capacity, fishing effort (e.g. temporal/spatial access to resources) and the allocation of catch limits and/or quotas. Fishery statistics, including data on fishers and fishing vessels, are essential for the monitoring and management of fisheries.

Resources for capture fisheries

FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome, FAO. 41 pp. (also available at http://www.fao.org/3/v9878e/V9878E.pdf).

FAO. Concepts and definitions - Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS). [Cited 1 November 2020]. http://firms.fao.org/firms/concepts/en