Commercial Data

NOAA Fisheries works with other federal, regional and state agencies to collect information on the volume and value of marine species landed by licensed commercial fishermen. These data are used by legislators, scientists, the seafood industry, students and other members of the public interested in understanding, evaluating and responding to the state of our domestic marine fisheries.

How we collect commercial fishing data

Whether licensed through federal or state government, every commercial fisherman is required to report his or her landings. In addition, the fish dealers who purchase these landings are also required to report. The timing and method of how these data are collected vary greatly between fisheries and jurisdictions, ranging from paper logbooks to complex online entry systems. Regardless of how they are reported, all of the data on the Office of Science and Technology website are merged into database systems for quality control, distribution and analysis through the Fishery Information Networks, or FINs. The FIN programs have evolved to support the specific needs of each region and include:


The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (MSA) sets forth information confidentiality requirements at section 402 (b), 16 U.S.C. 1881a. Under the Act, the government cannot make public any data that can be linked to individual people or businesses.  Currently, this is achieved through applying the “Rule of Three,” wherein any data presented to the public must have been reported by at least three fishermen or dealers. Those data that can only be attributed to two or fewer are aggregated to a higher level (e.g.: Unclassified Finfish or Unclassified Shellfish). This aggregation makes it very difficult to identify how much an individual might have reported, while preserving state, regional and national totals. A new rule has been proposed to further formalize this process and address some issues raised regarding the day-to-day application of the MSA confidentiality provisions. This site will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

Why this is important

Commercial fishing statistics are part of a much larger science and management system. Commercial landings data are combined with catch and effort data we collect from recreational fisheries, fisheries-independent data collected by scientists and information about what’s going on in other parts of the world. All these sources are taken into account when fisheries scientists assess stocks and set catch limits and fisheries managers create regulations. These data allow us to constantly evaluate, and respond to, the health and sustainability of our fisheries.

Annual Survey of Seafood Processors

Every year NOAA Fisheries conducts a survey of seafood processors across the United States, gathering information on product quantity and value as well as plant employment. This data collection spans all regions within NOAA Fisheries and generates important information for use in publications and management decisions. The Annual Survey of Seafood Processors is the only comprehensive data collection effort that includes all companies, regardless of plant size, and includes quantity and value information at the species level, when possible.

How we collect seafood processor data

The data collection is a collaborative effort between headquarters and various members of NOAA Fisheries and Marine Councils. The survey instrument is a paper form that asks processing firms for monthly employment figures, a list of product types and the quantity and value of each product processed in the previous year.

Various individuals work with NOAA Fisheries Headquarters to disseminate the survey in the field, including regional port agents, contacts with the NOAA Fisheries Regional Offices and Science Centers and representatives from Marine Commissions. In the winter, these representatives distribute the survey to the processors in their area and stay in contact throughout the process to assist in filling out the form and answering any questions. They also play a vital role in keeping the survey current and reaching out to local processors to improve return rates. The completed surveys are forwarded to NOAA Fisheries Headquarters, where Office of Science and Technology Fisheries Statistics Division staff enter all data, follow up with processors and port agents, tabulate annual figures and maintain historical databases.

Why this is important

The data generated from this method are used to tabulate seafood processing figures for Fisheries of the United States and are incorporated in Fisheries Economics of the United States. Furthermore, the values from the survey are used in important calculations, such as consumption and commercial landings disposition.

The data is also used by the USDA, the Census Bureau and FAO as well as private agencies, universities and industry. The data is also made available through individual data requests and is an important tool for understanding the seafood industry as a whole.

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