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Data & Resources

There’s a lot of publicly-available data to analyze the status of ocean ecosystems, economics, and management measures.  It may be imperfect and patchy, but it’s what we’ve got.   Here’s the primer I wish I had starting out.


SAUP Large Marine Ecosystem Profiles.  The Sea Around Us Project (SAUP) – a collaboration between the University of British Columbia and the Pew Environment Group led by Dr. Daniel Pauly – provides data on the large marine ecosystems of the world.  This level of information is relatively new and is very important as we move towards ecosystem-based ocean management. Here you can learn about, among other things, main fishing countries, their gear, and the value of catches.  Links are also provided to access NOAA’s Large Marine Ecosystem briefs.

Fishbase.  This is the largest, most comprehensive database of information on fish species.  I have used this database to track down scientific names, understand species’ life histories, learn IUCN status, view geographic maps of species ranges, and get a rough understanding of market values.

FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has compiled basic information on its member countries with regards to fisheries and aquaculture.  It’s a good starting point for any country-level analysis.  There I can find overviews of national legislation and links to fishery and aquaculture laws, the names of the key ministries, brief summaries of the latest catch and trade information, and links to related FAO publications.  The profiles may initially show up in a non-English language.  Click “English” above the navigation bar if this is an issue, though you may not get as much information. Also, not all the profiles are up-to-date on their legal and ministerial information, so check to see when the information was last updated.

FAO Regional Fishery Body Profiles.  The FAO provides useful profiles of Regional Fishery Bodies (RFBs).  RFBs include Regional Fishermen Management Organizations (RFMOs), which have management mandates, and various other organizations that have advisory or coordinating roles.  Of most import are the RFMOs that collect data and frequently make contentious decisions on how to manage straddling and/or highly migratory fish stocks.  A map of RFB jurisdictions is also available.

SAUP EEZ ProfilesThe SAUP also provides information on individual countries’ EEZs.  In effect, you have country profiles that provide some very interesting information not available from the FAO: estimated catch values, information on NGOs active in the country, and fishing subsidy estimates.
With regards to governance information, the FAO is still the best place to go.  Similarly, the governance information may not be up-to-date.

SAUP High Seas Area Profiles.  The SAUP also provides catch, value, ecosystem, and governance information for high seas areas, broken down according to FAO statistical areas.


Though stock assessments serve as the foundation of scientific fisheries management, relatively few stocks are assessed regularly.  Assessments are carried out at both the country-and RFB-levels.

The RAM Legacy Database.  This is an incredible data set of stock assessments from around the world.  It’s the best source that’s out there, but you’ll need to take a little time to learn how to use it.  The database is dedicated to Dr. Ransom A. Myers who put together the original version.

Global Assessments. There exist several global assessments of fish stocks, though all are of limited accuracy due to data limitations.  The FAO biannually publishes its State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report in which it provides a widely-cited global status assessment. The 2010 report noted that 32 percent of world marine fish stocks are either over-exploited, depleted, or recovering and that another 53 percent of stocks are fully exploited.  Worm et al (2006) estimated that 29% of fisheries were collapsed in 2003.  And the Sea Around Us Project estimates that roughly 50% of global fish stocks are over-exploited, collapsed, or rebuilding.  Branch et al (2011) used biomass assessments (as opposed to catch figures used in most assessments) to estimate that 28-33% of all stocks are overexploited and 7-13% of all stocks are collapsed.  See here for a discussion on data limitations.

Country-level Stock Assessments.  Some developed countries conduct stock assessments for those fish stocks falling within their EEZ.  Countries with available public assessments include:

Regional Fishery Bodies. Most RFMOs conduct assessments of the commercial stocks under their management jurisdiction.  The species group that receives the most attention is tuna and tuna-like species.  Nicely, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) compiles tuna stock assessments from various RFMOs into one annual document.  Here is a smattering of the RFBs providing stock assessments (and more follow below under ‘Catch Data’):


FAO Capture Production Database.  The FAO annually updates a dataset on global capture production (i.e. fish catches).  The data can be explored through an online interface or – for the more advanced queries – through manipulation with the FAO FishStat software.  FAO also provides specialized capture production databases for tuna and tuna and billfish. Note that the data corresponds to the FAO’s statistical areas and that species are sorted according to three coding schemes detailed more here.

It is very important to keep in mind that this information is incomplete and contains data entry errors – exactly why the Sea Around Us Project exists (see above).  I’ve been told that global capture production could be roughly 50% greater than reported when IUU catches are taken into account.  Also, FAO FishStat can be a little tricky, so consider copying your data to Excel for use with PivotTables.

RFB Databases.  Some RFBs collect and manage capture production databases, and these can differ from FAO databases.  It is generally believed that the RFB information is more accurate.  This includes:

Country Data.  Various countries provide online databases of their catch data.  If you use these databases, you’ll need to select for marine and freshwater species as many lump them together.  These databases include:


Though it is rather patchy, trade data can help give a good picture of which countries are consuming fishery products.  In the extreme, you can put together geographic estimates of major countries consumption patterns on ocean ecosystems as done by Swartz et al (2010) (though they used a far better dataset that is available only to SAUP researchers).  Here are the publicly available datasets:

FAO Fishery Commodity and Trade Database.  The FAO compiles statistics on the annual production of fishery commodities and imports and exports (including re-exports) of fishery commodities by country and commodities in terms of volume and value.  You can access the data through an online query or download the dataset in FishStat.

Country Data.  Few countries compile and publically-provide data on their trade in fishery products.  This is what I’ve found to date:


Global Number of Fishermen. A database on the total number of people employed annually in commercial and subsistence fishing, by country, by occupational category, by gender and according to the time spent in fishing.

Global Seafood Consumption.  A database on seafood consumption, by country, compiled and provided by the FAO.

National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) Databases.  The NOEP is part of the Center for the Blue Economy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  It provides a range of information on the ocean economy: ocean and coastal economic data for the U.S. coastal states, counties, and coastal regions; population and housing statistics for the coastal states and shoreline regions; economic data of the offshore oil and gas production of the U.S.; historical data of federal marine expenditures for ocean and coastal activities collected from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (excellent); and non-market valuation research studies about the coastal regions and waters (also great).

Economics: National Ocean Watch (ENOW) Data Set.  ENOW is a product of NOAA’s Coastal Service Center, and describes six economic sectors that depend on the oceans and Great Lakes: living resources, marine construction, marine transportation, offshore mineral resources, ship and boat building, and tourism and recreation.   Other related databases are also available.

European Union Fishing Subsidies Data.  Here you find an interactive map and data on EU fishing subsidies. is a project coordinated by EU Transparency, a non-profit organization.


Global MPA Database.  A joint project of the SAUP, WWF, UNEP, WCMC, and IUCN.  This gives a pretty comprehensive database of protected areas and supporting information.  A map view is available.  The database is “largely based on” the WDPA MPA database.  Though the map function is nicer on the WDPA database, far less information is available.

IUCN Redlist.  The latest information on the conservation status of species.

CITES Trade Database.  Trade information on CITES-listed, endangered species are detailed inCITES database here.  All listed species are given here.


Though still limted, online information on catch shares is growing.  The best resources come via the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Catch Shares Database. This database provides basic species and design information on catch shares around the world.  It’s a good place to start, but the database is not yet near exhaustive.

Catch Share Design Manual.  This EDF manual reviews the key attributed of catch shares, which goes to show the diverse design options available.  Also, the case studies offer a nice primer on catch shares on the ground.

Catch Shares Resources Database. This database is meant to be an “exhaustive, one-stop shop” for all catch shares resources.  It is pretty good on that…but it’s not been updated since July 2010.  Again, a good place to start but not everything.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 9:03 pm

    This is a fantastic page! So much data, so little time….


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