Guide to ICES website

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is a global organisation that conducts research and provides advice to support the sustainable use of the oceans. One of the main tasks of ICES is to advise on fishing quotas. The basic data required for providing advice on fishing quotas are derived from various fishing surveys and fishing activity registrations. ICES coordinates these surveys and registrations and collates the data collected in data portals. These data are usually publicly available through the Internet. Due to the huge volume of data, it is difficult to quickly find your way around the various data portals made available by ICES. This guide offers tools to enable professional users to quickly and successfully get to grips with the ICES data portals.

ICES data centre

The ICES data centre manages a large data collection relating to the marine environment. This data collection comprises information collected under the auspices of ICES. Information has also been gathered under the auspices of organisations such as OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) and HELCOM. You can obtain a total overview of the data available at the data centre through Data portals. The data are stored in various data portals according to topic, along with the subject and details of the corresponding data collection methods.

The Maps tool is particularly useful for users who are less familiar with the monitoring activities coordinated by ICES. This portal enables users to easily retrieve specific data on pollution and species. After opening the portal, a map appears. Selections according to data set, parameter, species, matrix, year and area can be made using the filters in the red menu bar.

Example: under species, click on “Gadus morhua” (cod). By selecting the year 2014, all observations about this species made in 2014 will be visualised (click on "view changes on map" at the top left). The underlying data can be retrieved directly via the box at the bottom right.

Fish data

Fish data are available from various portals:

  • DATRAS is the portal in which data on fish trawl surveys are recorded. The raw data can be retrieved online through this portal, such as migration data, numbers based on fish length, and also benthic species in a number of surveys. Biological data on the target species can be retrieved, such as length, weight, sex, maturity data and age. Specific data products, including catch per unit of effort (CPUE) by length or area, age-length keys (ALK), indices by species and sea floor waste, are also available. The portal operates by ticking filters. The download consists of a zip file which, in addition to the data retrieved, contains a file explaining the codes used. More information on this portal can be found using the documents link. The information includes a description of the various surveys for which data can be retrieved, the corresponding survey protocols, metadata and frequently asked questions.
  • Eggs and Larvae is the portal where data on ichthyoplankton surveys (including migration data and numbers of eggs and larvae) are recorded. Further information on this portal is likewise available, including a description of the various surveys, survey protocols and metadata.
  • Fish stomach is the portal where data on stomach contents can be found, mainly ICES data on the "Year of the Stomachs" in 1981 and 1991. More recent data have yet to be released. Stomach data are used among other things to determine food web relationships, which are used for instance in multi-species stock assessments.
  • The Popular advice environment provides access to a digest of the official advice issued by the ICES on various fish and crustacean stocks, for which purpose the data described above are also used. By selecting the "North Sea" tab and then clicking on "species", you can obtain a summary of the relevant ICES advice. You can click through this file to the underlying technical advice and also to the Working Group report, which describes the analyses underpinning the advice.

Fishing data

Commercial catch statistics are available from ICES. The data for the annual nominal catches of more than 200 species are officially submitted by 20 ICES member states and are compiled in collaboration with Eurostat and the FAO. ICES publishes this data, comprising landing data by species of fish, crustacean or shellfish. The data can be retrieved through the "datasets" box at the top right.

Chemical and biological data

DOME is the portal containing chemical and biological monitoring data collected from sources such as the OSPAR CEMP and the HELCOM COMBINE framework. The portal includes data on contaminants in biota, sediment and seawater, as well as data on diseases and parasites. The data are downloadable. A selection can be made using the filters for year, purpose, country, monitoring programme, laboratory and area. To view all data on the Netherlands, select "the Netherlands" in the "Country" filter. After you have accepted the ICES data policy, you can download the dataset as a CSV file.

Spatial information from DOME can also be retrieved via the ICES MAPS tool. You can retrieve specific data by making selections in the menu according to data set, parameter, species, matrix year and area.

Oceanographic data

Oceanography is the portal where oceanographic data, such as temperature, salinity, phosphate, nitrate, chlorophyll and Secchi depth, are recorded. The data are from permanent monitoring stations or were collected during various monitoring programmes, specifically for oceanography, but also during fish surveys or other programmes. All the data submitted must comply with specific guidelines. The data are also checked by experienced staff at the data centre before they are made available.

Three different links can be used to download oceanographic data.

  1. The IROC data link provides access to data from the permanent monitoring stations and to summarised data. A location can be selected by clicking on the yellow circles on the map, or using the filter menu at the top of the map. For various locations, the depth on which you wish to retrieve data can be selected from the second filter menu. The data retrieved will be shown on a graph on the right. You can use the filter to select the type of data (temperature, salinity, etc.) according to temporal scale (year, month, day) you wish to view and the type of data (temperature, salinity, etc.) of the location and depth selected. The selection can then be downloaded as a spread sheet.
  2. The CTD and bottle data link provides access to data collected on board ships. When opening the link for the first time, the total amount of available data will be shown by year. You can then select the period, area, type of data, country and ship on which you wish to retrieve data. After making a selection, press "submit" to perform a data search. If data are available, you can opt to have the data visualised and/or to retrieve the data directly.
  3. Data distribution maps is an ICES tool that offers access to distribution maps of the data collected. Maps can be created containing all locations, all locations in a certain period or all locations for a certain country.