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ICNAF Documents and Publications

Link here to access the numerous ICNAF documents and publications.

ICNAF Docs. & Pubs.


First Meeting of ICNAF in 1951

International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF)


The International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic (ICNAF) was among the first regional fisheries management body to be established in the world (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.) and was considered to have played a leading role in the assessment and management of fish stocks outside of national jurisdictions.

Despite ICNAF’s lead role and innovations in the formulation of fishery management techniques, an overwhelming expansion of long distance fleets in the 1950s and 1960s had a profound and lasting effect on the fishery resources in the northwest Atlantic. An extensive learning curve in understanding status and effects of exploitation on the fish populations, and limits on controls that could be imposed in international waters, diminished the effectiveness of ICNAF.

See below for more information on ICNAF in the drop down menus. A reference list is available as well.

A pdf is available here (952 kb)

History of ICNAF

History of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries - ICNAF years

ICNAF Convention

International Convention for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Commission

ICNAF did not originally have regulatory authority in Areas 0 and 6

Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the UK and the USA were the initial signatories to the Convention.

Signatories in 1978

Article I defined the bounds of the Convention area and divided it into five Subareas later extended southward to include Subarea 6, northward to Statistical Area 0. Incorporating boundaries established by its predecessor NACFI, these divisions were designed to correspond to distribution of the important commercial species.

Article II defined the composition, roles and responsibilities of the Commission as the body that would execute the Convention. Each country was allocated one vote; decisions of the Commission were taken by a two-thirds majority.

Article III described the supporting body for the Commission work, namely the Secretariat.

Article IV stipulated the establishment of a Panel for each of the Subareas.

Article V allowed for the institution of advisory committees and public hearings.

Article VI laid out Commission responsibilities, primarily determination the status of stocks. The Commission established a number of publica­tion series to communicate their work.

Article VII specified how the Panels operate within the framework the Commission by making recommendations to the Commission on such matters as regulatory measures, studies and investigations and alterations of Subareas.

Article VIII, was the basis for ICNAFs regulatory power autho­rizing the Commission to adopt regulatory measures such as a) open and closed seasons, b) area closures, c) size limits for fish, d) prohibiting particular fishing gear, and e) over-all catch limit for any species.

Article IX allowed for countries to become involved in the business of ICNAF, by invitation. This was not invoked during the time of ICNAF but a similar Article was used later by NAFO when it dealt with provision of advice for stocks that straddled the 200 mile limit of Canada.

Article X sought to establish working arrangements with the FAO and ICES. Both played an important part in the early years of ICNAF. ICNAF also interacted with other bodies The Executive Secretary of ICNAF had a very busy schedule of travel.

The remaining Articles XI through XVII dealt with administrative procedures and financial matters. Throughout the years, many amendments were made to the Convention and these are described in the Annual Reports of ICNAF.


The ICNAF Conventions were originally published in the Handbook. During ICNAF times editions were published in 1960, 1965, 1969 and 1974.

In general, the Handbook contained several parts: the text of the International Convention for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries signed at Washington, D. C., 8 February 1949, and the Rules of Procedure and Financial Regulations for the Commission. Early versions also contained the ICNAF Regulations and the Panel Memberships. There was also, in some cases, information about Annual Meetings and other topical information. Regulatory Measures later became a separate publication through the Commissioners' Document series.


Text of the Convention
Description of Subareas
Later Changes
Rules and Regulations
Financial Regulations
Annual Meetings


Text of the Convention
Description of Subareas
Various Protocols
Rules of Procedure
Financial Regulations
Trawl Regulations
Panel Membership
Annual Meetings
Special Projects
Commission Chairmen


Text of the Convention
Description of Subareas
Various Protocols
Rules of Procedure
Financial Regulations
Trawl Regulations
Statistical Divisions
Panel Membership
Annual Meetings
Commission Chairmen


Text of the Convention
Description of Subareas
Various Protocols
Rules of Procedure
Financial Regulations
Statistical Divisions


Signatories to International Convention for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Commission (as of 1978)

Contracting Party

Accession Date

Withdrawal Date

United States of America 1 September 1949 31 December 1976
United Kingdom 15 December 1949 31 December 1978
Iceland 13 February 1950  
Canada (Including Newfoundland) 3 July 1950  
Denmark 4 December 1950 31 December 1978
Spain 17 January 1952  
Norway 3 July 1952  
Portugal 19 July 1952  
Italy 19 August 1952 31 December 1978
France 27 January 1953 31 December 1978
Federal Republic of Germany 27 January 1953 31 December 1978
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) 10 April 1958  
Poland 21 November 1961  
Romania 21 March1967  
Japan 1 July 1979  
Bulgaria 21 August 1972  
German Democratic Republic 21 May 1974  
Republic of Cuba 28 November 1975  
Categories: ICNAF

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Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
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Tel: +1 902 468-5590