Grupo Coordinador de Trabajo sobre Estadísticas de Pesca (CWP)

Capture fishery 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 and other aquatic organisms for subsequent rearing in cages or the release of fingerlings in restocking operations. Sport and recreational fisheries are also included in capture fisheries.

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

  • searching for, attracting, locating, catching, taking or harvesting aquatic organisms or any activity which can reasonably be expected to result in the attracting, locating, catching, taking or harvesting of aquatic organisms
  • supporting, or preparing for, fishing, including the landing, packaging, processing, transhipping or transporting of aquatic organisms 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 fishery statistics are required for effective policy-making and sectoral planning.


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

Capture fishery 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:

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

The relationships between capture fishery statistics and the essential policy objectives are key determining factors in analyzing the needs for fishery information. Fishery 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.

CWP has developed a global standard to facilitate the reporting and exchange of statistical data on capture fisheries and aquaculture for use by CWP parties and national, regional and international organizations. This standard, known as the CWP Standard for Reference Harmonization, establishes a framework for a modular set of data structures commonly used for data collection and reporting among CWP parties at different levels of the data value chain. The standard consists of a set of data structures and harmonized statistical concepts and four data structures are currently available for use in capture fisheries: (1) Global capture production, (2) Catch, (3) Catch and effort and (4) Logbook. The implementation of this standard and details on the data structures are available under information sharing practices.

Resources for capture fishery statistics

FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome, FAO. 41 pp. (also available at

FAO. Concepts and definitions - Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS). [Cited 1 November 2020].