Describing the occurrence of species is a multi-layered task. In FishBase, the first standardization of the general range description includes the 27 major fishing areas that have been internationally established for statistical purposes (i.e., catch statistics) and which are described in some detail in FAO Yearbooks (e.g., FAO 1995). Such standardization should prove useful when, e.g., relating catch statistics and biodiversity.


The FAOAREAS table lists all the FAO statistical areas in which a species occurs, and vice-versa. A choice field classifies such occurrence into: native; endemic (i.e., naturally occurring in no other FAO area); introduced; extirpated (i.e., extinct in this area but still existing in other FAO areas); reintroduced (i.e., after extirpation); unclear. Note that strains and artificial hybrids are always classified as introduced, even if the strain originates from the FAO area in question, because hybrids and strains are by definition genetically distinct from wild populations.

The distributional range of many species is not well established

We made an effort to have this basic geographical standardization complete for all species. Note, however, that the distributional range of many species is not well established and it is often not clear whether or not they extended into adjacent FAO areas. Also, the borders of FAO areas cut across faunal regions and therefore the number of species in, for example, area 61, Pacific, Northwest is not representative for the Northwest Pacific because it includes many tropical species which extend northwards to Taiwan and southern Japan, both included in area 61. We intend to use Longhurst’s (1995) biogeographical provinces for a finer, and ecologically more meaningful subdivision of the oceans.

Only diadromous fishes such as the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) are assigned to both inland and marine areas; the many amphidromous tropical marine fishes that regularly enter the lower reach of rivers or coastal lakes for feeding are not assigned to FAO inland areas to avoid confusion.

How to get there

You get to the FAOAREAS table by clicking on the Range button in the SPECIES window and the FAO areas button in the STOCKS window.


On the Internet version, you get to the FAO Areas table by clicking on the respective link in the ‘More information’ section of the ‘Species Summary’ page.


FAO. 1995. FAO yearbook: Fishery statistics – Catches and landings 1993. Vol. 76. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy. 687 p.

Longhurst, A. 1995. Seasonal cycles of pelagic production and consumption. Progress in Oceanography 36:77-167.

Rainer Froese