Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP)

Socio-economic dimension

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO, 1995) stresses that “in order to ensure the sustainable management of fisheries and to enable social and economic objectives to be achieved, sufficient knowledge of social, economic and institutional factors should be developed through data gathering, analysis and research” (FAO, 1995, p. 12).

In general fisheries administrators have given greater attention to the collection of production data and biological information, while the acquisition of socio-economic data has not yet received the same level of effort. Nevertheless, socio-economic information is of critical importance in fisheries management and for policy definitions.

Relevance of socio-economic statistics

Fish and other aquatic organisms are mainly produced for human use and consumption through economically focused capture fisheries and aquaculture activities and thus one important mechanism to monitor the two sectors is through assessment of their economic performance. In addition to the cost and revenue variables for socio-economic statistics the number of people engaged in the sectors and their earnings are crucial information. Such information is required to enable management discussions that include the economic contributions to society from fisheries and aquaculture as well as reflect the motivation for people to act in the sector.

Assessing the economic contribution of fisheries and aquaculture involves monitoring the performance and sustainability of activities relating to the use of aquatic resources throughout the whole value chain, and separately from other agricultural and commercial activities. However, information on the social and economic contributions of the sector is fragmented, often with a focus on commercial (rather than artisanal and subsistence) activities of the primary production sector, and for the secondary sector often aggregated with value chains of other industries, hence not fully recognizing the full value chain or associated activities. Such data deficiencies can result in erroneous policies, e.g. food security and nutrition policies overlook fish despite its importance in people’s diets, poorly assessed contribution of women result in inadequate gender-aware policies, or under-reporting of the impacts of disasters on the fisheries and aquaculture sector. There is a need for guidelines and standard methodologies to evaluate the specific contribution of aquatic biological resource use throughout the value chain.

Primary production sector

Socio-economic statistics refer to fishing enterprises or fishing vessels and when vessels are used as the unit of observation, they are most often grouped into fleet segments (EU, 2008). The fleet segments allow for the division of the entire population into homogeneous, mutually exclusive, groups of vessel types/sizes/geographic locations. Aquaculture segments are often defined by species/farming technique (EU, 2016). 

Socio-economic statistics refer to fishing enterprises or fishing vessels and when vessels are used as the unit of observation, they are most often grouped into fleet segments. The fleet segments allow for the division of the entire population into homogeneous, mutually exclusive, groups of vessel types/sizes/geographic locations. Aquaculture segments are often defined by species/farming technique. Depending on the policy goal, whether an overall sectorial performance assessment, or a more detailed analysis, based on fleet or aquaculture segments, the socio-economic statistics should be linked to the catch (including effort) and respectively aquaculture production statistics in order to allow for more coherent policy recommendations. Frequently the link between the two datasets represents difficulties due to the different populations (in fisheries: enterprises vs vessels; in aquaculture: companies vs. production facilities), used for the collection of these data. For example, capture production statistics are usually collected by flag state and not segmented by fleet classes or fishing gears. Aquaculture production statistics are mostly collected from the production facilities, not enterprises, and defined as farm-gate production.

Core variables

Core variables represent the minimum data to be collected to provide a basic assessment of the economic performance of the sector, and for which data collection can be implemented at regional and/or country level. Several socio-economic data collection programs are in place amongst the CWP agencies and these are identified under regional references programs. These data collection programs differ in coverage and detail depending on the objectives of the data collection. In order to set a global standard, the focus has been placed on the most universally available variables.

At the moment, only the primary production sectors of aquaculture and fishing are included here, but it is anticipated that the secondary processing sector will also be included. The fish processing sector follow the ISCO-08 definition 7511 (butchers, fishmongers and related food preparers) which describes more generally the occupation of food preparers and refers to both fish and meat processing plus the definition 8160 (fish processing machine operators) can be used to define processing activities.

Fish processing refers to the processes associated with fish and fish products between the time fish are harvested, and the time the final product is delivered to the customer. Fish processing includes operations handled on board and/or on land to convert raw fish in a form which as acceptable for the consumer and that has a longer shelf life, e.g. preserving the harvested fish with ice; preparing fresh fish by removing heads, fins, scales, bones and entrails; salting, drying, smoking seafood; shucking and packing fresh shellfish; canning seafood; producing fish paste products (surimi), boiled fish products, fermented products, fish meal and fish oils; processing marine fats and oils; and freezing seafood.

Primary production sector: the first economic variables required to conduct a socio-economic assessment are revenue, costs and employment. However, the revenue and cost variables are composed of elements that can be complex to collect and are not universally available. At the moment, production value is available for aquaculture while data on the production value from capture fisheries is not consistently collected nor consistently available. In order to address the current limitations in data availability, CWP-26 followed a minimum data requirements approach and endorsed global standards for core variables of both Fisheries production and Aquaculture production.


European Union. 2008. Commission Regulation (EC) No 665/2008 of 14 July 2008 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 199/2008 concerning the establishment of a Community framework for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector and support for scientific advice regarding the Common Fisheries Policy. Official Journal of the European Union 186(L): 3-5. (also available at

European Union. 2016. Segmentation to be applied for the collection of aquaculture data. In Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2016/1251 of 12 July 2016 adopting a multiannual Union programme for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the period 2017-2019. Official Journal of the European Union 207(I): 172-173. (also available at

Resources for socio-economic dimension

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

Pinello, D., Gee, J. & Dimech, M. 2017. Handbook for fisheries socio-economic sample survey – principles and practice. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 613. Rome, FAO. 115 pp. (also available at