Glossary of Terms

A B C  E F G H I  L M N O P Q R S T U V W  Y



Allowable catch
The catch allowed to be taken from a stock, by a fishery during a specified time period. Often defined as the Total Allowable Catch (TAC), it is often allocated explicitly amongst those having a right of access to the stock. See: Quota.



1) The total weight of the living organisms concerned, whether in a system, a stock, or a fraction of a stock: e.g. plankton biomass in an area, biomass of spawners or of newly recruited fish.
2) Total weight of a resource, a stock, or a component of such stock. Examples: the biomass of all demersal fish on the Georges Bank; the biomass of the cod stock; the spawning biomass (i.e. the weight of mature females) (also standing stock).

Boat day
A measure of fishing effort; e.g. 10 vessels in a fishery, each fishing for 50 days, would have expended 500 boat-days of effort.
By-catch: Part of a catch of a fishing unit taken incidentally in addition to the target species towards which fishing effort is directed. Some or all of it may be returned to the sea as discards.

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Catch Certificate: You need a catch certificate for marine caught fish for human consumption if you:

  • export fish to certain non-EU countries (UK catch certificate)
  • import fish into the EU from non-EU countries (EU catch certificate)
  • export fish caught by a UK fishing vessel to a non-EU country (for example, for processing) and it’s re-imported back to the EU

Catch certificates are issued by the country where the fishing vessel is registered (the flag state). They prove that fish have been caught legally and contain information about:

  • when the fishing took place
  • where the fishing took place
  • how much fish was caught

Community Fleet Register (CFR)
All EU vessels in the database should have a Community Fleet Register (CFR) number, a unique vessel identifier which is permanently assigned to an EU vessel and cannot be reassigned to another. FR numbers are for EU vessels only. The number is not used outside the EU, but it is preserved if the vessel comes back to an EU Member State flag. When a vessel that was previously in the EU register wants to re-enter the EU flag, the historic CFR code should be used.

Combined IUU vessel list
A compilation of data on IUU vessels listed by RFMOs.

The Committee on Fisheries (COFI)
The Committee is an inter-governmental forum (U.N. body) of member governments and other organizations where major international fisheries and aquaculture problems and issues are examined and recommendations developed to address these issues.

Common Fisheries Policy
The fisheries policy of the European Union (EU). It sets quotas for which member states are allowed to catch what amounts of each type of fish. See Regulation

Compliance Agreement
1993 FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance With International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas.

Conservation and Management Measure
Conservation and Management Measure adopted by an RFMO. Some RFMOs also call them conservation measure (CM) or conservation and enforcement measure (CEM).

Contracting Party (CP)
A country that has signed, or otherwise agrees to abide by the terms of, an international agreement

Cooperating Non-Member (CNM)
Cooperating Non-Member – includes Cooperating Non-Parties, Cooperating Non-Contracting Parties and Cooperating Fishing Entities.

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Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
1) A zone under national jurisdiction (up to 200-nautical miles wide) declared in line with the provisions of 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, within which the coastal State has the right to explore and exploit, and the responsibility to conserve and manage, the living and non-living resources.
2) The area adjacent to a coastal state which encompasses all waters between: (a) the seaward boundary of that state, (b) a line on which each point is 200 nautical miles (370.40 km) from the baseline from which the territorial sea of the coastal state is measured (except when other international boundaries need to be accommodated), and (c) the maritime boundaries agreed between that state and the neighbouring states.

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FAO Model Scheme on Port State Measures
The Model Scheme on Port State Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing – endorsed by COFI in 2005.

Fish stocks
The living resources in the community or population from which catches are taken in a fishery. Use of the term fish stock usually implies that the particular population is more or less isolated from other stocks of the same species and hence self-sustaining. See: Fishery resource

Fisheries support vessels
A vessel which support fishing activities, it includes fish carriers, bunker vessels, motherships and net boats.

1) The sum (or range) of all fishing activities on a given resource (e.g. a hake fishery or shrimp fishery). It may also refer to the activities of a single type or style of fishing (e.g. beach seine fishery or trawl fishery). The fishery can be artisanal, or/and industrial, commercial, subsistence, and recreational, and can be annual or seasonal.
2) Activity of catching fish, from one or more stocks of fish, that can be treated as a unit for purposes of conservation and management and that is identified on the basis of geographic, scientific, technical, recreational, social or economic characteristics, and/or method of catch. See: Fishing.

Fishery management
The integrated process of information gathering, analysis, planning, decision-making, allocation of resources and formulation and enforcement of fishery regulations by which the fishery management authority controls the present and future behaviour of interested parties in the fisheries, in order to ensure the continued productivity of the living resources.
Fishery resource: Any stock of aquatic living animals (except those specifically prohibited by law) which can be caught by fishing, and their habitat.

The Fishing Authorisation Regulation (FAR) governs the European Union’s large fishing fleet when operating outside EU waters by providing them with fishing authorisations.

Fishing industry
Includes both recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing, and the harvesting, processing, and marketing sectors.

Flag or flag State
The State where a vessel is registered and flagged./ State having registered a vessel under the national flag

Flag of convenience (FOC)
Also known as Flag of Non Compliance. Pertains to cases in which a vessel is registered in a State other than its country of beneficial ownership. This could be for reasons of cost or convenience and possibly, in the case of fishing vessels, for lower levels management and enforcement of domestic and international arrangements.

Foreign fishing vessel
Any fishing vessel other than a vessel of the coastal State.

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Any tools used to catch fish, such as hook and line, trawls, gill nets, traps, spears, etc.

Geographic Information System (GIS)
An information system that stores and manipulates data which is referenced to locations on the earth’s surface, such as digital maps and sample locations.

Geo-referenced data
Data which is connected to a specific location on the earth’s surface.

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High seas
High Seas, in maritime law, all parts of the mass of saltwater surrounding the globe that are not part of the territorial sea or internal waters of a state.

Highly migratory species
Marine species whose life cycle includes lengthy migrations, usually through the EEZs of two or more countries as well as the high seas. This term usually denotes tuna and tuna-like species, marlins and swordfish.

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International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) responsible for the conservation of tuna and tuna- like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas including the Mediterranean.

Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) responsible for the conservation and management of fisheries for tuna and other species taken by tuna-fishing vessels in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

International Radio Call Sign
Issued by the flag State to a vessel.

Illegal fishing, unreported fishing and unregulated fishing-IUU-fishing
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a group of fisheries activities that respect neither national boundaries nor international attempts to manage high seas resources. These usually thrive where governance is weak and where countries fail to meet their international responsibilities and put unsustainable pressure on fish stocks, marine wildlife and habitats, subverts labour standards and markets.

International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU)
Voluntary instrument developed by the FAO within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) that manages tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) and IMO number
A specialized agency of the United Nations. Its objective is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping; its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping. A global system of vessel numbering has been set up by the International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”), whereby certain categories of shipping vessel are issued with a seven digit number, which is displayed on the vessel’s hull or superstructure, and recorded in a registry. The number stays with the vessel throughout its life, and is not changed or deleted on change of ownership. This system provides a centralised, consistent and accessible method for identifying vessels. IMO numbers are currently not mandatory for fishing vessels.

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Weight of the catch landed at a wharf or beach.

A record of the fishing activity registered systematically by the fisher, including catch and its species composition, the corresponding effort, and location. In many fisheries completion of logbooks is a compulsory requirement of a fishing licence.

A fishing vessel that uses a single line (sometimes up to 30 kilometers long) with baited branch lines at regular intervals to catch fish – often tuna and other pelagic fish.

Lloyd’s List Intelligence (formerly Lloyd’s MIU)
With a history of collecting maritime data dating back nearly 300 years, Lloyd’s List Intelligence provides an interactive online service ( offering detailed vessel movements, real-time AIS positioning, comprehensive information on ships, companies, ports and casualties as well as credit reports, industry data and analysis including short-term market outlook reports.

Lloyd’s Register – Fairplay (LRF)
LRF manages the IMO ship identification numbering scheme on behalf of the IMO and maintains details of ships on order and under construction, the current trading fleet and ships that are in casualty, lost or broken up. It also provides online information services for the shipping industry, including Sea-web.

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Management authority
The legal entity which has been assigned by a State or States with a mandate to perform certain specified management functions in relation to a fishery, or an area (e.g. a coastal zone). Generally used to refer to a state authority, the term may also refer to an international management organisation.

Merchant vessel
A commercial vessel used to transport goods.

Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS)
Defined by the FAO as activities undertaken by the fishery enforcement system to ensure compliance with fishery regulations.

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Nationality of catch
The flag of the vessel performing the essential part of the operation catching the fish, should be considered the paramount indication of the nationality assigned to the catch data and this indication overridden only when one of the following arrangements between a foreign flag vessel and the host country exists: (a) the vessel is chartered by the host country to augment its fishing fleet; or (b) the vessel fishes for the country by joint venture contract or similar agreements (as opposed to the ad hoc practice of a vessel selling catches to a foreign vessel or landing catches at a foreign port) and the operation of such vessel is an integral part of the economy of the host country. When governments negotiate joint ventures or other contracts in which vessels of one country land their catches at ports of another country or unload their catches to vessels of another country and the one of the above-mentioned criteria is applicable, the assignment of nationality to such catches and landings data should be specified in the agreement.

Nominal catch
The sum of the catches that are landed (expressed as live weight equivalent). Nominal catches do not include unreported discards and may differ considerably from the actual catch.

North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) that manages demersal fisheries (species that live on the seabed) in the Northeast Atlantic.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO)
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) that manages fish stocks that are outside Canada’s 200-mile limit, straddle the line or are of mainly foreign interest.

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Any certified person serving in the capacity of an observer employed by the Management Authority, either directly or under contract. Usually embarked on large fishing vessels (principally but not exclusively foreign vessels), observers are responsible for monitoring fishing operations (e.g. areas fished, fishing effort deployed, gear characteristics, catches and species caught, discards, etc.). They may or may not be part of the enforcement system.

Observer data
Fisheries information collected on-board fishing vessels by independent observers.

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Port State
A State with maritime boundaries and ports that allow access to foreign vessels.

Port State Measures
Requirements established or interventions undertaken by port States which a foreign fishing vessel must comply with. Among these are measures against IUU-listed vessels such as denial of entry into port, denial of transshipment and/or landing, and denial of provision of port services which we have focused on in this study.

Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA)
The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing; being negotiated during 2008 and 2009 under the auspices of the FAO and was adopted by the FAO Conference in November 2009.

Port visit
A visit by a vessel to a port, including a foreign fishing vessel or a merchant vessel flagged to another country.

Precautionary approach
1) Set of measures taken to implement the precautionary principle.
2) A set of agreed cost-effective measures and actions, including future courses of action, which ensures prudent foresight, reduces or avoids risk to the resource, the environment, and the people, to the extent possible, taking explicitly into account existing uncertainties and the potential consequences of being wrong.

Private or chartering agreements between EU companies and third countries: EU companies also negotiate private agreements with certain non-EU countries that grant them private access to fishing resources in the waters of these coastal states. This is only allowed when there are no Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and this particular country in place. In addition, EU companies make chartering agreements for their EU vessels to fish the resources of certain coastal states in collaboration with local companies.

Under the current FAR, EU member states whose vessels engage in fishing activities in third country waters through private or chartering agreements must only inform the European Commission (EC) of the names of these vessels. There is no requirement to provide other relevant information such as the target species, fishing area, period or gear. This makes it impossible for the EU Commission, Member States and stakeholders to fully understand the activities carried out by these vessels.

Furthermore, there is no EU-wide database of information on private agreements between EU companies and third countries. Even though the vessels benefitting from these agreements fly EU flags or are operated by EU nationals, the EU has not established procedures to ensure that these arrangements comply with EU fisheries laws, respect labour laws, or to guarantee the EU operator that the authorisation they have bought is valid. Private agreements are therefore not included in this database

Purse seiner
A fishing vessel that uses a purse seine net (a large net that is set around a school of fish, then drawn together at the surface and underneath the fish to trap them). Frequently used to catch high-volume fish, such as skipjack tuna.

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A share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) allocated to an operating unit such as a country, a vessel, a company or an individual fisherman (individual quota) depending on the system of allocation. Quotas may or may not be transferable, inheritable, and tradable. While generally used to allocate total allowable catch, quotas could be used also to allocate fishing effort or biomass.

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A vessel used to transport perishable commodities that require temperature control, such as fruit, meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.

Refrigerated cargo vessel
Similar to a reefer but may also include refrigerated container vessels designed to carry containerized loads in which each container is a refrigerated unit.

Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO)
Inter-governmental organisation that co-ordinates efforts to manage fisheries in a particular region.

Biological resources include genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual or potential use of value for humanity. Fishery resources are those resources of value to fisheries.

Responsible fisheries
The concept “encompasses the sustainable utilisation of fishery resources in harmony with the environment; the use of capture and aquaculture practices which are not harmful to ecosystems, resources and their quality; the incorporation of added value to such products through transformation processes meeting the required sanitary standards; the conduct of commercial practices so as to provide consumers access to good quality products” (International Conference on Responsible Fishing, Cancun, Mexico, 1992).

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Online database that provides comprehensive global port visit data, including real-time reports from 165 countries, as well as coverage of ship and ownership details. Part of Lloyd’s Register – Fairplay.
Online database that contains the world’s largest ship photo library, with some 700,000 images submitted by members. Images of vessels include the date and place the image was taken, as well as who submitted the image.

South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) that oversees the management of fisheries in the Southeast Atlantic.

State of the stock
An appreciation of the situation of a stock, usually expressed as: protected, under-exploited, intensively exploited, fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted, extinct or commercially extinct.

Stock assessment
The process of collecting and analyzing biological and statistical information to determine the changes in the abundance of fishery stocks in response to fishing, and, to the extent possible, to predict future trends of stock abundance. Stock assessments are based on resource surveys; knowledge of the habitat requirements, life history, and behaviour of the species; the use of environmental indices to determine impacts on stocks; and catch statistics. Stock assessments are used as a basis to assess and specify the present and probable future condition of a fishery.

Straddling stock
Stock which occurs both within the EEZ and in an area beyond and adjacent to EEZ (Article 63(2) of UNCLOS).

Subsistence fishery
A fishery where the fish caught are consumed directly by the families of the fishers rather than being bought by middle-(wo)men and sold at the next larger market.

Sustainable fisheries agreements with non-EU countries are negotiated and concluded by the Commission on behalf of the EU. They are intended to allow EU vessels to fish for surplus stocks in that country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in a legally regulated environment. These agreements also focus on resource conservation and environmental sustainability, ensuring that all EU vessels are subject to the same rules of control and transparency. At the same time, a clause concerning respect for human rights has been included in all protocols to fisheries agreements.

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Target species
Those species that are primarily sought by the fishermen in a particular fishery. The subject of directed fishing effort in a fishery. There may be primary as well as secondary target species.

Total Allowable Catch (TAC)
Total catch allowed to be taken from a resource in a specified period (usually a year), as defined in the management plan. The TAC may be allocated to the stakeholders in the form of quotas as specific quantities or proportions.

The transfer from one vessel to another of fish products, whether at sea or in port. A transshipment point is where fishery products are brought together for onward shipment.

Trash fish
Fish with little or no commercial value and not sorted by species before landing. Usually part of the trawlers’ by-catch. It can be used for aquaculture, fishmeal production and in many developing countries, for human consumption.

A fishing vessel that uses a trawl net (a large net, held open by trawl doors, that skims across the seabed herding fish into the net as it passes). This method typically targets demersal fish species but can also be used to target fish in the water column, where it is known as midwater trawling.

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U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment and the management of marine natural resources. Adopted in 1982, came into effect in 1994.

U.N. Fish Stock Agreement (UNFSA)
The Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

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Vessel journey
Information on the movement of a vessel on the combined IUU vessel list.

Vessel Monitoring System (VMS)
VMS provides monitoring agencies with accurate locations of fishing vessels that are participating in the VMS. It tells the monitoring agency see new guidelines.

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Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) that oversees management of fisheries for tuna and similar species in the Western Pacific.

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Yellow and red carding: The issuance of yellow cards is a warning from the European Commission (EC) to third nations, but does not include any sanctions or trade measures. The Commission will instead begin to formally cooperate with these countries, giving them six months to take steps to amend their legal framework to combat IUU fishing, improve monitoring and control of fishing activities, and bring themselves into alignment with their international obligations.

If reforms are not carried out, or not carried out in a timely manner, a ‘red card’ may be issued. This results in a ban on imports to the EU of fish products caught by vessels flying the flag of the red-carded country. It also leads to a ban on EU vessels fishing in the waters of that red-carded country. This decision is made publically available on the EC’s official journal and website.

Both yellow and red cards can be lifted when there is clear evidence that the situation that warranted the carding has been rectified. This is referred to as delisting.

Catch in weight. Catch and yield are often used interchangeably.


**Source for these terms include bb38 resources. For a full fisheries glossary, please visit FAO term portal.**