Building up data on world fisheries requires a truly international effort. International classifications and standardized data submission procedures must be maintained to ensure that statistics are comparable across countries so as to allow for summation and analyses at regional and global level.
Fisheries statistics are usually obtained from national reporting offices and, wherever possible, verified with other sources. Estimates are produced when data are lacking or are considered unreliable. Statistics are stored in databases and disseminated through publications, electronic media and the Internet. Aggregated data are also available through the FAO corporate statistical database on its Web site.
Capture fishery production
This database contains the volume of fish catches landed by country of capture, species or a higher taxonomic level, and FAO major fishing areas. Volume is measured in tonnes for all items except aquatic mammals, alligators and crocodiles, which are measured by number of animals, and pearls, shells, corals and sponges which are measured in kilograms. Weights are of the whole animal (live weight) and coverage includes harvest by commercial, artisanal and subsistence fisheries. The database shows annual figures for the period from 1950 organized by: about 245 countries, territories or land areas, 29 major fishing areas, approximately 1 350 species/items of the FAO International Standard Statistical Classification of Aquatic Animals and Plants (ISSCAAP) for which commercial catches are reported.
Capture fishery production reported to regional commissions
Countries that are members of FAO regional fishery commissions established to promote management of fish stocks in the commission or convention area are required to report to the commission capture statistics for the countries' flag vessels that fish in the area.
For the area of competence of three commissions originally created under the FAO aegis in the Mediterranean/Black Sea, the Eastern Central Atlantic and the South East Atlantic, three regional databases are maintained with data provided as annual production in quantity by country, by species and by sub-area:
- for the 4 sub-areas of major FAO fishing area 37 (Mediterranean and Black Sea), further subdivided into 10 divisions;
- for the 4 sub-areas of major FAO fishing area 34 (Eastern Central Atlantic), further subdivided into 12 divisions;
- for the 5 sub-areas of major FAO fishing area 47 (South East Atlantic), further subdivided into 11 divisions.
The collection of statistics on aquaculture production was added to the fishery statistics collection activities programme in 1985. Initially the problem was obtaining a universally acceptable and permanent definition of aquaculture for data collection. The basis on which data have so far been collected by FAO defines aquaculture as the farming of aquatic organisms, which implies some form of intervention (such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators), is implied in the rearing process to enhance production, plus individual or corporate ownership of the stock being reared.
An objective for the aquaculture database is to include data on aquaculture production units (surface of growing waters, number of cages, number of pens, etc.) and type of culture in addition to the existing statistics on production quantity and price per kilogram by species, country and aquatic environment. The same coding scheme and record format used for nominal catches and landings are being used to store these data. Aquaculture statistics are needed by a wide range of data users including industry, banks, and groups interested in sources of fish supplies, location, costs and potential growth. The database shows annual figures from 1950 organized by about 180 countries, 3 aquatic environments and more than 400 species/items.
Fishery commodities: production and trade
This database contains statistics on the annual production of fishery commodities and imports and exports (including re-exports) of fishery commodities by country and commodities (including processing method) in terms of volume and value from 1976.
The data are coded using the FAO International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishery Commodities (ISSCFC) which is derived from the United Nations Standard International Trade Classification, Revision 3 (SITC Rev. 3) and linked to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System of the World Customs Organization (formerly the Customs Co-operation Council). The database is organized by: about 245 countries, territories or land areas; approximately 800 species/commodity items included in the FAO ISSCFC.
The quality of these data varies depending on each country's ability to collect and compile such statistics. Data are verified for accuracy and completeness by all information at disposal, such as foreign trade statistics, industry and commodities reports, and correspondence with countries when data are questionable.
Production statistics refer to the quantities of preserved and processed fishery commodities produced both ashore and on-board vessels utilising catches from commercial fisheries and aquaculture production. Products from imported raw materials are also included. Data are expressed in tonnes and refer to the net weight of the commodities, i.e. excluding the weight of the container.
Statistics include species from which the commodity is produced, the commodity form (whole, filleted, shucked, etc.) and form of preservation (fresh, frozen, canned, cured, meal, etc.). They do not include turtles, frogs and crocodiles. Products such as costume jewellery and fish leather are also excluded.
Whenever national offices fail to report or do not report in time, estimates are provided by FAO. In the absence of other information, export data are used as production estimates and the returns of major trading partners are used as trade estimates. Data for non-reporting countries are also estimated using published national reports, industry association reports and other relevant material. Such estimates are appropriately flagged.
International trade statistics refer to the quantities and values of annual imports and exports (including re-exports when applicable) of fish and fishery products. Quantities are expressed in tonnes (product weight), and values are expressed in thousand US$. The conversion from national currencies into US$ is done by applying average annual exchange rates from the International Monetary Fund. Imports are generally valued "c.i.f." and exports "f.o.b.". The trade is general trade; exceptions are indicated in the notes of the FAO fisheries commodities yearbook.
Import and export trade statistics are obtained primarily from country reports provided to FAO in published form or on computer tapes. About 100 countries, including the major fish trading nations, provide data on magnetic tapes.
Fishing vessel production can be landed and sold at foreign ports or off-loaded onto a foreign country vessel in international waters and thus sold to a foreign country. In both cases, according to definitions used to compile fishery statistics, these are considered respectively as exports and imports. A number of countries do not categorise these transactions as foreign trade. When data on these types of transactions are available, the reported estimate of trade is adjusted by including these data.
Country of origin for imports or country of destination for exports are not included in the database. Data refer to the calendar year, except for a few countries which report data on a split year basis (in which case data are shown under the calendar year in which the split year ends).
National annual statistics on the number and total tonnage of fish catching used in commercial, subsistence and artisanal fisheries are collected by size of vessel measured in gross register tons (GRT) or gross tons (GT) for 10 types of vessels defined in the International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishery Vessels (ISSCFV). Data for calendar years for 1970, 1975 and annually from 1977 onwards, constitute the series that have been collected, compiled and edited.
Fishing fleet data are collected in several ways. The primary means is to collect the data directly from each country through a questionnaire and explanatory notes. For non-reporting countries and countries submitting incomplete data, other sources are used such as national publications, international fishery magazines, FAO fishery country profiles, national fleet registers and Lloyd's Maritime Information Services database. The latter contains the number and total tonnage of insured vessels but does not include vessels under 100 GRT. Therefore, a large portion of the fishing fleet for most countries is excluded from this database, since most fishing vessels are smaller than 100 tons.
While the FAO database is designed to record data on a systematic basis, the problems in obtaining the information prevent release of timely statistics. To properly use the data, one must consult the many notes included in the relevant publications. These are used by FAO and externally by governments and the industry. Such statistics are particularly useful to the fishing vessel construction industry and equipment suppliers.
This database contains statistics on the number of commercial and subsistence fishers and fish farmers from 1970. It is collected on an annual basis by means of a questionnaire which requests separation of the number of workers according to the time devoted to fishing as an occupation (full-time, part-time, occasional) and by inland or marine waters. Based on the revision of the International Standard Classification of Occupations, since 1990 information is also collected on the number of people engaging in commercial aquaculture and on the disaggregation of employment data by gender.
Apparent consumption of fish and fishery products
Annual statistics of supply/utilisation accounts (SUAs) for eight groups of primary fishery commodities and nine groups of processed products are supplied to the FAOSTAT system of food availability and consumption data. The SUAs contain the estimates of supplies from different sources matched against estimates of different forms of utilisation of each product. These series are regularly updated and revised in the light of any new information. The food balance sheets derived from the SUAs of food products are consistent internally. Data on per caput fish food supplies are expressed in terms of quantity and, by applying appropriate food composition factors for all primary and processed products, also in terms of caloric value and protein and fat content. In FAO's work these data are required to meet the requests of its statutory bodies to keep the world's food and nutrition situation under constant review, to update FAO's analytical work in the field of food and population, and to provide the statistical base for the projections of demand and other assessment studies.
The derived apparent consumption statistics are as good as the basic catch, utilisation, trade and production data on which they are based; therefore trends in some cases may reflect improved primary data rather than real changes to food intake.
The database includes SUAs for about 245 countries, territories or land areas from 1961.