These guidelines aim to help those who design routine data collection programmes, focusing on the relationship between typical questions asked by policy-makers and managers and the data required for providing reliable answers. Fisheries policy and management objectives, particularly under the precautionary approach, need to be based upon analyses of reliable data. Data are needed to make rational decisions, evaluate the fisheries performance in relation to management activities and fulfil national and regional requirements. The implementation of a data collection programme should follow a normal project cycle, developing a new legal and institutional framework as appropriate.
Specific guidelines on sample-based fishery surveys are provided by a number of working papers and project reports developed by FAO during the implementation of field projects involving fishery statistical development. Several of these guidelines are included in the ARTFISH series of technical papers and computer software manuals.
An effective means for understanding the methodological and operational aspects of sample-based fishery surveys is the use of the planning component of the ARTFISH system (ARTPLAN module). Using this tool users can obtain a realistic view of the capabilities of their data collection systems, identify problem areas and improve the cost-effectiveness of their regular field operations for data collection.