The state of world marine fishery resources

For more than two decades, the FAO Fisheries Department has been producing reviews on the State of World Fisheries Resources. While these have been published primarily as background documents for the regular sessions of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), they have proven to be most useful for other international meetings dealing with the conservation and management of marine living resources, as well as to individual fishery scientists and managers looking for a brief but comprehensive review of the state of world fishery resources.

The latest version of the Review of the State of World Fishery Resources: Marine Fisheries provides information on fish production from 1950-2002 and the state of exploitation of stocks in 2004. The analysis of this extended time series has led to interesting findings and general conceptual hypotheses regarding the general trends and potential of fisheries at global and regional scales. It has also led to a more detailed look at the state of exploitation and management by major regions, highlighting special topics such as tunas, squid resources, deep sea fisheries and long-term climate variability.

Regional reviews

Each regional review is based on an FAO statistical area and comprises three main sections: an introduction, a profile of catches and a section on resource status and management.

The introduction describes the key geographical features and attributes of the physical environment found within the specific FAO statistical area. This section also contains a brief summary of the main points of current interest or concern within the FAO statistical area, whether they arise from long-term trends or patterns or recent changes in the fisheries.

The profile of catches draws on the long-time series of catches on data recently collected into a single database by FAO to give a sense of the historical scale, development and relative importance of the various types of fisheries found within each FAO statistical area.

The resource status and management section - the main focus of each regional review - describes recent developments within specific fisheries. The structure varies to reflect the most appropriate basis upon which to separate the resources into meaningful components. In certain FAO statistical areas, separation into Exclusive Economic Zones is used, while in others a distinction is made according to resource type (e.g. demersal, pelagic). Yet reporting on other areas follow the approach used by organization(s) charged with assessing or managing marine resources in that specific area.

Wherever possible, the results of stock assessments are used to make quantitative comments on resource status directly. However, in many fisheries, particularly those which have developed recently, such information is not available. In such cases qualitative information may be presented. Additionally, in instances where catches are believed to be indicative of stock status, quantitative catches data may be discussed. The description and analyses of state of exploitation given in these sections make use of the best information currently available to FAO.

Catch data

For each FAO statistical area a table containing catch data for each year from 1996 to 2002 and ten-year averages from 1950 to 1999 is given in Marine Resources Tables. Also contained in these tables are annotations on the state of exploitation of each resource. A certain degree of care must be taken in interpreting these annotations because they are given on a species-by-species basis, rather than for individual stocks. It is typically the case that within each FAO statistical area the catches of a given species will come from two or more distinct stocks. It is often the case that the state of exploitation of such separate stocks is different. In such instances the "state of exploitation" indicators in the table should be checked against the main narrative within the appropriate "resource status and management" section for further details. Given this distinction between species and individual stocks, it can be seen that the "state of exploitation" notes have limited statistical significance from a fisheries management point of view and are intended as "rule of thumb" indicators only.

It should also be noted that, while FAO believes that the principal marine species which are, or have been, the subject of exploitation are represented in the tables, the majority of species which contribute to many marine fisheries in lesser quantities are not included.

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