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  1. Introduction
  2. Mandate
  3. History
  4. Legal framework
  5. Area of competence
  6. Species and stocks coverage
  7. Membership
  8. Structure
  9. EIMS Publications Database
  10. Media materials
  11. Contact

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is an intergovernmental marine science and research organization for the provision of information and advice to Member States and international bodies. Founded in 1902, ICES is the world's oldest intergovernmental science organization.

Mandate The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) coordinates and promotes marine research on oceanography, the marine environment and ecosystems, and living marine resources in the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. ICES Science and Advice considers the relationship between human activities and marine ecosystems, ensuring the optimum science is available for decision-makers to make informed choices about the sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources.

ICES principal functions are to: (i) promote, encourage, develop, and coordinate marine research; (ii) publish and otherwise disseminate results of research; and (iii) provide non-biased, non-political scientific advice to member nation governments and international regulatory commissions.

Current ICES priorities include the expansion of scientific activity into the Arctic, Integrated Ecosystem Assessments, aquaculture, and continued work towards the environmental pillar of the European Union’s integrated maritime policy, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).


In the late 19th century, a growing concern over the well-being of fish stocks in the North Sea coupled with efforts by different groups of scientists in neighboring countries to promote and encourage international scientific marine cooperation resulted in the establishment of ICES on July 22, 1902, in Copenhagen, Denmark by eight founding nations: Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The Council's membership has fluctuated over the years with nations joining/leaving/rejoining at different times as a result of wars and political decisions.

An exchange of letters among the original eight member nations was sufficient to establish the council in 1902. This type of arrangement continued until the early 1960s when this informal status became unacceptable in light of the establishment of the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies as well as other international organizations. Steps were initiated to achieve full international recognition of the Council by the host country, Denmark. At a conference convened in Copenhagen on September 7, 1964, a formal convention was signed which subsequently came into force on July 22, 1968, following its ratification by the then 17 member nations.

Legal framework Area of competenceICES works in the Atlantic Ocean, with a primary focus on the North Atlantic, as well as the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Additionally ICES extends its work through strategic partnerships into the Arctic, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the North Pacific.
ICES area of competence - High seas, National waters
The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. Dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement.
Species and stocks coverageAll living resources. LanguagesEnglish and French Membership

Member: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Observers: (no link available)


The Council: was established in 1902 as a result of Stockholm (1899) and Christiania (1901) conferences and is entrusted with the task of carrying out a programme for international marine scientific research. It is made up of 2 delegates per Member State. The Council provides the oversight for the overall operational activities and strategic direction of ICES.

The Bureau: is the executive committee of the Council and carries out the decisions of the Council, draws up the Council agenda, convenes its meetings and oversees the budget. The Bureau has operated since 1902. It reports to the Council. The Bureau consists of the President of ICES and six vice-presidents, who are all delegates from the Council.

The Finance Committee: is responsible for auditing the Organization’s financial accounts, and preliminary oncoming accounts. It is accountable to the Bureau and the Council. The Finance Committee consists of a Danish delegate and four other delegates appointed by the Council for a period of three years.

The Science Committee (SCICOM): oversees all ICES scientific interests, which includes the delivery of the ICES Science Plan. It oversees the scientific interests of the Council. SCICOM facilitates an annual or triennial cycle of expert groups, ICES publications and the Annual Science Conference. It reports to the Bureau and the Council. SCICOM is made up of a Chair, one member from each ICES member country and all steering group chairs.

The Advisory Committee (ACOM): has sole responsibility for generating and publishing scientific advice for ICES in support of the management of coastal and ocean resources and ecosystems. ACOM oversees ICES advisory services, and sets the strategic direction in all areas linked to the provision and development of advice. It reports to the Bureau and Council. ACOM is made up of a Chair, four Vice-chairs, one member from each ICES member country, and observers from Greenland and The Faroe Islands.

The Secretariat and General Secretary: The secretariat provides logistic, secretarial, administrative, scientific, and data handling support to the ICES network, the Council and the Committees. It provides the infrastructure and technology for the operation of the work of ICES. It is represented by the General Secretary, who reports to the Bureau and the Council.

Governance of expert groups: The Science and Advisory committees jointly manage the expert groups.

EIMS Publications Database Media materials Social network


International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)

Anne Christine Brusendorff (General Secretary)

H. C. Andersens Boulevard 44-46, 1553 Copenhagen V, Denmark

Telephone: +45 3338 6700

Fax: +45 3393 4215

Email: [email protected]

Email: Terhi Minkkinen

Web site: www.ices.dk

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