FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
  1. Introduction
  2. Mandate
  3. History
  4. Legal framework
  5. Area of competence
  6. Species and stocks coverage
  7. Members
  8. Structure
  9. EIMS Publications Database
  10. Web sources
  11. Contact

The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) for the North East Atlantic, one of the most abundant fishing areas in the world, established in 1959 but working since 1980. The area covered by the NEAFC Convention stretches from the southern tip of Greenland, east to the Barents Sea, and south to Portugal. Recommendations adopted by NEAFC are legally binding. NEAFC seeks the services of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea for scientific advice on conservation, protection and sustainable use of the marine environment and on fisheries resources management and related matters. This scientific role of ICES is separated from the policy and management role of NEAFC. Each year NEAFC receives advice from ICES, on the main commercial stocks, specific stocks such as deep sea species, sharks and rays and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems NEAFC manages between 10 and 20 fisheries.

The fully automated vessel monitoring system (VMS) database to support surveillance and inspection is the major element in monitoring and controlling Contracting Party vessels fishing in the Regulatory Area. In 2008, NEAFC adopted a new binding Recommendation on bottom fishing which was a comprehensive measure, incorporating all the relevant elements from the UN General Assembly resolution, and the work within FAO. No vessel can carry out fishing activities including transhipment in the Regulatory Area of NEAFC without being notified to the NEAFC by the flag State. There are also strict procedures for reporting infringements that are monitored by the NEAFC Permanent Committee on Monitoring and Control, PECMAC.


NEAFC’s objective is to ensure the long-term conservation and optimum utilisation of the fishery resources in the Convention Area, providing sustainable economic, environmental and social benefits. Historically, NEAFC focused on the target species of the fisheries being managed, and bycatches of other economically important species. From the 1990s, there has been a development of an increasing focus on the effects of fisheries on the other parts of the marine ecosystem and on the protection of biodiversity. Therefore, while NEAFC adopts management and control measures for various fish stocks it also adopts measures to protect other parts of the marine ecosystem (including biodiversity) from potential negative impacts of fisheries.

NEAFC can adopt legally-binding measures for the conservation and management of fisheries resources under its mandate in all parts of its Convention Area. However, management of areas under national jurisdiction is conditional on the relevant coastal State proposing and supporting such measures, and in practice NEAFC is largely focused on the portions of the Convention Area that are beyond national jurisdiction, collectively known as the Regulatory Area. The Regulatory Area comprises four separate areas but the northernmost (Arctic) area is almost permanently ice-covered, and there are no fisheries there. There are therefore three high-seas areas where NEAFC regulates the fisheries: one in the Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Azores (RA1: Reykjanes Ridge), one in the Norwegian Sea (RA2: Banana Hole), and one in the Barents Sea (RA3: Loophole). However, all measures that apply generally, rather than to particular fisheries, also apply to the Arctic area. This includes measures for the protection of VMEs.

NEAFC can consider measures for, among others, fishing gears, net mesh sizes, size limits for fish in the catch, closed seasons and areas, total allowable catches (TACs), and effort. The decisions seek to be consistent with measures applied by Contracting Parties within areas under their jurisdiction and, upon request from a Contracting Party, NEAFC may also adopt measures for such areas. Measures become binding after 50 days, subject to an objection procedure that can result in the measure not being binding on the objecting Contracting Party. Each Contracting Party is also required to provide the Commission with the scientific and statistical information needed for the purposes of implementing the Convention.

The amended NEAFC Convention clarifies the aspects that need to be considered by the Commission when making its decisions on the fishery and the fisheries resources. Specifically, these decisions are to: (a) be based on the best scientific evidence available; (b) apply the precautionary approach; (c) take account of the impact of fisheries on other species and marine ecosystems, and minimise harmful impacts on living marine resources and marine ecosystems; and (d) take account of the need to conserve marine biological diversity.


The Commission was established under Article 118 of UNCLOS to promote cooperation of States in the conservation and management of living marine resources in the high seas through the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Convention of 24 January 1959. However the Commission only became operative in 1980 under the “Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in North-East Atlantic Fisheries “ that replaced the 1959 Convention.

The original focus of the 1959 Convention was management of shared stocks in international waters of the North East Atlantic, at this time mostly concerning the North Sea given national jurisdiction only extended to 3 nautical miles. With the adoption of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the SEA and the resulting extension of EEZ to 200nm this radically changed the nature of shared stocks in the 1980s. in 1982 a new Convention, with broadly similar objectives, entered into force. Amendments to the 1982 Convention adopted in 2004 and 2006 formed the “New” Convention, which, among other things, modernised the 1982 Convention to bring it in line with current approaches to managing fisheries, including applying an ecosystem approach to fisheries. It specified that conservation and management measures could be taken to minimize harmful impacts on marine ecosystems. To date, the 2004 amendment regarding dispute settlement procedures has not yet entered into force, whereas the 2006 amendments, which include all the other changes and had been implemented on a provisional basis since their adoption, entered into force in 2013.

The Contracting Parties of NEAFC updated the 1980 Convention in 2004 (dispute settlement procedures – not yet ratified) and 2006 (bringing the Convention into line with developments in international law since the 1980 convention was negotiated). The preamble of the “New” Convention lists the international instruments of importance and stresses that NEAFC in addition to managing fisheries has an important role in conservation and integrating environmental concerns into its management..

Legal framework Area of competence

Those parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and their dependent seas which lie north of 36° north latitude and between 42° west longitude and 51° east longitude, but excluding:

(ii) the Baltic Sea and the Belts lying to the south and east of lines drawn from Hasenøre Head to Gniben Point, from Korshage to Spodsbjerg and from Gilbjerg Head to the Kullen.


(ii) the Mediterranean Sea and its dependent seas as far as the point of intersection of the parallel of 36° latitude and the meridian of 5°36’ west longitude.

NEAFC’s area of competence also includes the part of the Atlantic Ocean north of 59° north latitude and between 44° west longitude and 42° west longitude.

Related Fisheries Management Units are:
  • North East Atlantic Pelagic redfish fisheries in the Irminger Sea and adjacent waters
  • North East Atlantic Pelagic redfish fisheries in the Norwegian sea
  • North East Atlantic Deep-sea species fisheries
NEAFC Convention Area - 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 coverage

All resources of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and including sedentary species, excluding, in so far as they are dealt with by other international agreements, highly migratory species and anadromous stocks.

Related Fisheries Management Units are:

Pelagic Fisheries for the smaller pelagic species
  • North East Atlantic Blue whiting fisheries
  • North East Atlantic Norwegian spring spawning herring fisheries
  • North East Atlantic Mackerel fisheries
Demersal trawl fisheries for Rockall haddock
  • North East Atlantic Rockall haddock fisheries

Deep sea demersal fisheries

  • North East Atlantic Deep-sea species fisheries
Pelagic deep sea redfish fisheries
  • North East Atlantic Pelagic redfish fisheries in the Irminger Sea and adjacent waters
  • North East Atlantic Pelagic redfish fisheries in the Norwegian sea

Contracting Parties (CP): : Denmark, European Union, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, United Kingdom.
* Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland).

Cooperating Non-Contracting Parties (CNCP): : Canada, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis.


Commission: it is comprised of Contracting Parties which have signed up to the NEAFC Convention (1980). The head of the Commission is the President, who is responsible for convening, presiding, opening and closing and running regular meetings of the Contracting Parties and ensuring that the business of the Commission is carried out effectively and in accordance with its decisions. Presidents and Vice Presidents are elected from among the Contracting Parties for two years. A President/Vice President may serve more than once, but not more than two consecutive terms. The Commission meets once every year for the Annual Meeting where the legally binding Recommendations are adopted. Such Recommendations are proposed by Contracting Parties or by one of the main committees.

Secretariat: It implements the Convention through the decisions of the Commission at its Annual Meeting. It is headed by the Secretary.

Permanent Committees (3):
  • The Permanent Committee on Monitoring and Compliance (PECMAC): is responsible for advising the Commission on issues relating to fishing controls and the enforcement of the Scheme.
  • The Permanent Committee on Management and Science (PECMAS): liaises with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which provides independent scientific advice to NEAFC.
  • The Finance and Administration Committee: is responsible for advising the Commission on all aspects of the Commission's annual budget. The Committee also advises the Commission on staffing and administrative matters.
Working Groups (4):
  • Working Group on Statistics: is permanent. It reports annual statistics to the Commission.
  • Working Group on the Future of NEAFC: meets as is needed and is currently active, looking at broader issues related to global developments on oceans and fisheries.
  • Working Group on the Electronic Reporting System - Implementation
  • The Joint Advisory Group on Data Management (NAFO and NEAFC): aims to harmonise data collection between the two organisations and offer technical advice to Contracting Parties and other RFMOs if requested.
EIMS Publications Database Web sources Web sources


Dr Darius Campbell (Secretary)

NEAFC Secretariat

HQ Address: 44 Baker Street London, W1U 7AL UK

Telephone: (+44) (0) 207 631 0016Fax:(+44) (0) 207 149 9950

Email: General enquiries

Email: Inspection related information

Email: VMS messages and updates

Email: Compliance and Operational enquiries

Email: PSC

Email: Website enquiries

Email: Finance and Administration

Email: Secretary of NEAFC

Powered by FIGIS