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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

The Commission

The decision making body and its committees

Contracting Parties

1951 -Canada, Denmark, Iceland, UK and USA

1975 – Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, France, German Democratic Republic (GDR), Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), United Kingdom (UK, including Ireland) and USA

1979 Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, GDR, Iceland, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and USSR

At the first meeting of the Commission in 1951, the Commission recognized that “certain fisheries of the area, particularly off the New England coast of the United States of America, have shown signs of depletion”. The importance of the occasion was embodied in an address by the Undersecretary of the US Dept. of State “I am told that this is the first instance wherein a group of nations have formally committed themselves to a program of scientific investigation and regulation, to the end that fish resources of a vast area of the high seas shall be conserved and utilized prudently”. While conservative management in the coming years was not always observed, on a global scale, the formation of ICNAF represented a major step in the attempt to manage high seas fisheries.

At the first meeting of the Commission, Rules of Procedure were defined to create a framework for execution of the Convention. A supporting body for the Commission was instituted in the form of a Secretariat and established in Halifax Nova Scotia in 1953 to provide meeting support, compilation of reports and collation of statistics. The first addition to the staff was a statistician, in recognition of the importance of fishery statistics in the conduct of managing the fisheries.

ICNAF work was done by five committees known as Panels, corresponding to five statistical areas. The Panel system was employed to “review the fisheries of its subarea and the associated scientific, statistical and other information and, on the basis of scientific investigations, making recommendations to the Commission for adoption (e.g. regulatory measures, scientific studies and investigations.”

The Commission established a Research and Statistics (STACRES, 1951) to advise on conduct and coordination of national research programs, on the collection of statistics and provide advice on regulatory measures. Research and statistical programs were carried out by agencies of the various Contracting Parties thus constituting a loosely coordinated international effort. In later years, two other standing committees were formed, STACREM, 1967 and STACTIC, 1971, both regulatory bodies.

Categories: ICNAF

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Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
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1601 Lower Water Street 
Suite 401
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canada B3J 3P6

Tel: +1 902 468-5590