Preventing over-fishing

Reducing unsustainable exploitation of fish resources
Ensuring sustainable exploitation of fish resources

To promote the establishment of technical conservation measures to support the conservation and sustainable use of fish stocks, including fishing exclusion areas (mainly for the protection of dense aggregations of juvenile fish), and mesh sizes. To reduce the impact of fishing activities on non-target species and on marine and coastal ecosystems to achieve sustainable exploitation of marine and coastal biodiversity.


Achieving levels of sustainable fishing requires implementation of upper limits of exploitation rates (fishing mortality rates) and minimum levels of stock biomass, so that there is a high probability of ensuring viability and sustainability of fishing for a species or group of species. Once the maximum exploitation rate to be allowed in respect of each species is defined, the mechanisms to keep it below the critical level will need to be defined. The tools to limit exploitation rates should be defined, as appropriate, as maximum levels of fishing effort, as total allowable catches or as combinations of these two instruments.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) monitors marine fishery production and issues alerts to prevent damage due to over-fishing. The FAO's Responsible and Sustainable Fisheries Programme integrates fisheries into coastal area management, promotes responsible fishing and fisheries management, as well as assisting countries in the implementation of the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fishing being prepared by the FAO.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) formed a conservation partnership with Unilever in 1996 to create market incentives for sustainable fishing by establishing an independent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC's mission is to work for sustainable marine fisheries by promoting responsible, environmentally-appropriate, socially beneficial and economically-viable fisheries practices while maintaining the biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes of the marine environment.

In the inshore fishery at Alanya, Turkey, local fishermen came together in the 1970s to overcome problems caused by increased fishing. They used common-property management to develop a rotational system of spacing and assigning choice fishing spots, with mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement. The system controlled overfishing and reduced costly conflicts.

In the Philippines, The Central Visayas Regional Project established fish sanctuaries by building artificial reefs and also provided alternative employment opportunities to counter dynamite fishing which depleted fish stocks and destroyed coral reefs.

Cree Indians of Fort George, James Bay, northern Canada, maintain a large and successful subsistence fishery. Methods used in the fishery, seasons and locations of catch, and yield levels were studied, together with the population biology of two sea-run Coregonus species, cisco and whitefish, that dominate the catch. The fishery was characterized by a high degree of order, social regulation of the fishing effort and the gillnet mesh size, and practices that were identified as adaptations to the subarctic ecosystem. Fishing methods used permit the Cree to control the magnitude of the harvest and the species and size composition of the catch. There is evidence that fishers can alter the scarcity-abundance patterns of the fish stocks, and have a biologically measurable effect on the populations.


The governments should eliminate subsidies that encourage overcapacity in the world's fishing fleet, controlling development and pollution in coastal areas which threaten fish stocks, and cutting the amount of fish wasted by vessels at sea and during storage and transport on land.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 14: Life Below Water