Fisheries landings

The source of global marine catch data is the database collected annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Global time series of catch data have been maintained over more than 60 years and are available through the FAO fisheries and aquaculture database. For statistical purposes, 27 major fishing areas have been internationally established (see Figure below). Major fishing areas 18 (Arctic Sea), 21 (Northwest Atlantic) and 27 (Northeast Atlantic) cover the Arctic area as defined in the CIA fact book. The FAO fisheries and aquaculture database contains, amongst others, capture production statistics by country or territory, species item, and FAO Major Fishing Area.

Map of Major FAO Fishing Areas

Figure : Map of Major FAO Fishing Areas (source: FAO)

FAO area 18

As FAO area 18 solely covers the Arctic area (i.e. Arctic sea), catches can be selected from the FAO database for this major fishing area. However, it is believed that the current catches stored in the FAO database for this fishing area are too low to be reliable (Zeller et al., 2011). Zeller et al. (2011) presents a catch reconstruction of the area for the period 1950-2006. This work has been extended in time to 2010 in the Seas Around Us Project (http://www.seaaroundus.org/). However, these catch reconstructions are based on assumptions of which their credibility could be contested.

FAO catch data

Catch data can be accessed using the software package FishStatJ which can be downloaded from the FAO website. In order to access the catch dataset, the global workspace also needs to be downloaded from the FAO website. The global workspace consists of four datasets; (i) global capture production, (ii) global aquaculture production, (iii) global commodities production and trade, and (iv) global production by production source. Once the workspace is imported into FishStatJ the relevant catch dataset, i.e. global capture production, can be selected. The catch dataset runs from 1950 onwards. The filter option enables one to select relevant major fishing area(s).  

Source: http://www.fao.org/fishery/statistics/software/fishstatj/en


FAO area 21

The Northwest Atlantic (i.e. FAO area 21) is covered by the NAFO convention area which has been divided into a number of NAFO divisions. NAFO divisions 0A, 1A and 1B cover the Arctic part of the Northwest Atlantic. Catch statistics by year, country, gear, tonnage, main species have been downloaded for these divisions from the NAFO website (21B database) by decade for the period 1960-2014. As the different variables (i.e. country, gear, tonnage, main species) are coded in the datasets, data processing is required in order to present the data. Note that total catch of USA by species is not included in the data.


The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) is an intergovernmental regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) founded in 1979. It’s overall objective is “to contribute through consultation and cooperation to the optimum utilization, rational management and conservation of the fishery resources of the NAFO Convention Area” (http://www.nafo.int). The NAFO members (currently twelve) send their annual compilation of information on national catches and landings to the NAFO Secretariat.

Source: http://www.nafo.int/fisheries/frames/fishery.html


FAO area 27

For management purposes, the Northeast Atlantic (i.e. FAO area 27) is divided into ICES fishing areas. ICES areas I, II, Va and XIV cover the Arctic part of the Northeast Atlantic. Catch statistics by species, area, country and year for these areas have been downloaded from ICES website for the periods 1903-1949, 1950-2010 and 2006-2014. For the first two periods it is clearly stated that this concerns landings data, rather than catch data. For the third period it is not that clear.


The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is an intergovernmental organization science organization that “provides scientific advice on the marine ecosystem to governments and international regulatory bodies that manage the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas” (http://www.ices.dk). ICES has been gathering and publishing fisheries statistics since 1904. Annual nominal catches in the Northeast Atlantic region are officially submitted by 20 ICES member countries (http://www.ices.dk). The current data is collected and coordinated in collaboration with the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat).  

Source: http://www.ices.dk/marine-data/dataset-collections/Pages/Fish-catch-and-stock-assessment.aspx