NAFO was founded in 1979 as a successor to ICNAF (International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries) (1949-1979). In 2009 NAFO has twelve member countries from North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. Four of them are coastal States bordering on the Convention Area: USA, Canada, France (in respect of St. Pierre et Miquelon), and Denmark (in respect of Faroe Islands and Greenland).
NAFO’s Convention from 1979 on “Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries” was formulated directly after a number of coastal States introduced a national exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 miles. The NAFO Convention thus reflects the effort to continue the international cooperation in these waters and maintain the compatibility of conservation and management measures between the coastal and the international areas while respecting the new exclusive rights of the coastal states.
NAFO’s original objective from 1979 was recently modernized to also include an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. This means that it now expands beyond a sustainable use of commercial northwest Atlantic fishery resources by committing to also protect the associated marine ecosystem from adverse fisheries effects.
The NAFO Convention applies to all fishery resources in the Northwest Atlantic except salmon, tunas/marlins and mammals as these are already under the responsibility of other intergovernmental regional fisheries management bodies. It also does not apply to sedentary species such as many shellfish over which coastal States exercise rights.
Management unit: No
Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management; Monitoring; Control and surveillance.
Area of Competence: NAFO area of competence
Maritime Area: High seas.
Management RegimeNAFO Managed fisheries
Based on scientific advice, NAFO adopts a comprehensive range of management and conservation measures.
The NAFO Fisheries Commission meets once a year to adopt Conservation and Enforcement Measures (CEM) for the international fisheries. Such measures include setting limits for total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas (the share of the TAC that each member State is allowed to fish ) for each stock. While the annually changing TACs and quotas (including moratoria) as listed in the NAFO quota table are among the most prominent management measures to regulate fisheries, there are a number of other measures that can also play and important role to protect fishery resources and their environment. As a precautionary measure in the context of an Ecosystem Approach, NAFO has closed eighteen possible vulnerable marine ecosystems to bottom fisheries (five seamounts, a large coral area along the southern Grand Banks and twelve areas of significant coral and sponge concentrations near the Flemish Cap).
Quotas and TACs are established annually by the NAFO Fisheries Commission. Shrimp in Division 3M (presently under moratorium) was managed under an effort allocation scheme.
Other NAFO management measures include bycatch and gear restrictions, minimum fish size regulations as well as area and time limitations.
To ensure that its conservation measures are followed, NAFO has developed a comprehensive set of regulations to monitor, survey and control the fisheries. Some of these measures are:
- Register of all vessels authorized to fish in the NAFO area;
- Comprehensive reporting and recording requirements of catches and fishing effort by vessel masters, port authorities and flag States;
- Labelling of fish products, stowage requirements and marking of gear;
- Requirements to carry an independent observer on board;
- Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).
- Port State Measures
Scientists from NAFO member States contribute to the assessment of fish and ecosystems in the NAFO Convention Area by conducting scientific surveys and evaluating other relevant information. The NAFO Scientific Council meets several times each year to discuss its findings, coordinate its research activities and prepare scientific advice for the Fisheries Commission and Coastal States.
The information used by the NAFO scientists includes but is not limited to catch statistics from NAFO Contracting parties as well as data gathered on commercial and research vessels and in landing ports.