Fisheries Standard for Electronic Data Transmission
A Brief History of the North Atlantic Format
In the early 90's the European Communities started a project on the tracking of fishing vessels. Based on satellite tracking and data transmission, the participating member-States and the European Commission's DG XIV (present DG Fish) rapidly recognised the need for a data transmission format that could be used by participating agencies to exchange position reports. Denmark proposed a "two letter coding" system to be transmitted separated by slashes ("/") between each code (slash delimited). It became the "Danish Format".

The main features of the format were the fact that it could be readable both by humans and by computers, and that "vessel to shore" transmission could be done using a reduced number of "bytes" making the transmission affordable. Latter on Spain proposed the addition of new codes and it became known as the "Spanish modified Danish format".

For a number of years the format was used for by European Union member-States on their pilot projects on Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). In parallel two of the north Atlantic RFMOs started discussions on the possibility of standardisation for data transmission from the fishing vessels.

In 1995 both NEAFC and NAFO produced documents addressing the need for a system to exchange reports electronically and the possibility of using the "Spanish modified Danish format" as a standard. These documents were NEAFC's "Final report of the Working Group on standardisation of reporting from sea by fishing vessels" (September) and the NAFO's "Report on the STACTIC Working Group Meeting on Pilot Satellite Project" (October).

In May 1996 the 2 nd NAFMC meeting in Reykjavik recommended the creation of a working group evaluating developments towards a common standard for exchange of position/catch data in the North Atlantic region. The format was used by Norway on their "NAFO Satellite Pilot Project". The new NAFMC working group met in October in Tórshavn and recognised the need for further expansion of the existing format, adding new codes. For the first time the name "North Atlantic Format" (NAF) was mentioned.
In May 1997 the 3 rd NAFMC meeting in Tórshavn urged the relevant organisations, namely NAFO and NEAFC, to take the necessary steps to consolidate a standardised format for data exchange. NAFO used NAF to allow electronic transmission of hails and tracking reports from the Contracting Parties to the Secretariat.

In 1998 NEAFC in its Extraordinary Meeting adopts the "Scheme of Control and Enforcement". All messages and reports transmitted under the Scheme are developed using NAF as a standard. The Scheme came into force on 1 st July 1999.

Since 2000 a number of bilateral VMS agreements came into force in the north Atlantic region using NAF as a standard for electronic data transmission. Other RFMOs, namely FFA and SEAFO considered the possibility of using NAF as a data transmission standard.

NAF was also used and/or evaluated in fisheries research projects such as IMPAST and SHEEL and will most probably be evaluated in the CEDER project.
In 2004 CCAMLR adopted NAF for VMS purposes. Also in 2004 NEAFC established an "Advisory Group for Data Communication" that will, inter alia , permanently evaluate the use, improvements and expansion of NAF.

In April 2005 the NAF website was installed and will help present and future users to better understand the standard and contribute to further improvement and expansion. At present, management of NAF website is a joint responsibility of NAFO and NEAFC Secretariats.