ASFA - A valuable tool for marine researchers



The Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) is a large bibliographic database collating abstracts and indexing a very comprehensive set of available documents about aquatic science. The objective of ASFA states (taken from the Article-1 of the partnership agreement):

The overall objective of ASFA co-operation is to develop and maintain a service for the collection and dissemination of information on the science, technology and management of marine, brackish water and fresh water environments, organisms and resources, including economic, sociological and legal aspects, in a form easily accessible to the user community, bearing in mind the special interests of developing countries and based on the pooling of literature monitoring and indexing activities by the individual partners, consistent with internationally accepted standards and practices. The service shall include a computer searchable bibliographic database, associated printed abstracts journals and the relevant tools for the control of the system and aids to its use.

It is clear that the scope of the database is quite large, containing a broad range of subjects, from biology to sociology and law. It is updated monthly, monitoring more than 5000 scientific journals. Additionally, it includes books, reports and conference proceedings. It has more than two million entries, and more than 3500 are added monthly. The database is split into five subcategories:

  • ASFA-1, Biological Sciences and Living Resources
  • ASFA-2, Ocean Technology, Policy and Non-Living Resources
  • ASFA-3, Aquatic Pollution and Environmental Quality
  • Aquaculture abstracts
  • Marine Biotechnology abstracts

ASFA was originally established in 1970 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with a publishing partner and several national partners. Currently, it is produced from the collaborative effort of four United Nations agencies (FAO, IOCUNEPUNDOALOS), which are co-sponsoring, contributing material, and assisting the participation of developing countries in the ASFA partnership: 11 International partners (e.g. ICESIUCN) and 51 National research centers provide bibliographic references to the database. The publishing partner of ASFA, ProQuest, collects the input from all partners into a large database. Although the primary language of the database entries is English, entries in 40 different languages are collated, with English translations of the titles and abstracts. The database is further available in different information products:

  • A monthly, or bimonthly printed (!) version is distributed to all partners (the ASFA-1 alone consists of 22,000 references per year)
  • A DVD version is available to the partners and commercially to the public
  • A web search engine is also available here

The search engine (the search can include other databases linked with ProQuest) allows inclusion and exclusion criteria (geographic location, subject, date of publication, etc). One can start a broad search and then narrow it down to select specific regions, or species, or subjects. It has tools to create documents (pdf, rtf, or txt) of search results that contain only the fields of the entry that are of interest to the user. There is also the option to extract reference lists to a reference manager (RefWorks, ProCite, EndNote, bibtex).

After using the database for some weeks now, I think that it is a very important tool for any researcher interested in aquatic sciences. It has better search criteria than google scholar and is more focused than Web of Knowledge. This is therefore a potentially useful tool for all of us within NorMER.


Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts - Web site. Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA). FI Institutional Websites.In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department [online]. Rome. Updated. [Cited 30 May 2012].



By NorMER PhD student, Alexandros Kokkalis
Published May 31, 2012 5:38 PM - Last modified Aug. 27, 2012 2:28 PM
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