Destructive fishing: An expert-driven definition and exploration of this quasi-concept

Arlie Hannah McCarthy, Daniel Steadman, Hannah Richardson, Jack Murphy, Sophie Benbow, Joshua I. Brian, Holly Brooks, Giulia Costa-Domingo, Carolina Hazin, Chris McOwen, Jessica Walker, David Willer, Mohamad Abdi, Peter J. Auster, Roy Bealey, Robert Bensted-Smith, Kathryn Broadburn, Gonçalo Carvalho, Tom Collinson, Bolanle ErinoshoMichael Fabinyi, Senia Febrica, Wilson Ngwa Forbi, Serge M. Garcia, David Goad, Lynda Goldsworthy, Hugh Govan, Charles Heaphy, Jan Geert Hiddink, Gilles Hosch, Daniel Kachelriess, Jeff Kinch, Alana Malinde S.N. Lancaster, Frédéric Le Manach, Thomas Matthews, Alfonso Medellín Ortiz, Alexia Morgan, Helena Motta, Hilario Murua, Naveen Namboothri, Evelyne Ndiritu, Kelvin Passfield, Nicolas J. Pilcher, James O. Portus, Juan M. Rguez-Baron, Morven Robertson, Abhilasha Sharma, Cristián G. Suazo, Leandro Luis Tamini, Juan Vilata-Simón, Nibedita Mukherjee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous policy and international frameworks consider that “destructive fishing” hampers efforts to reach sustainability goals. Though ubiquitous, “destructive fishing” is undefined and therefore currently immeasurable. Here we propose a definition developed through expert consultation: “Destructive fishing is any fishing practice that causes irrecoverable habitat degradation, or which causes significant adverse environmental impacts, results in long-term declines in target or nontarget species beyond biologically safe limits and has negative livelihood impacts.” We show strong stakeholder support for a definition, consensus on many biological and ecological dimensions, and no clustering of respondents from different sectors. Our consensus definition is a significant step toward defining sustainable fisheries goals and will help interpret and implement global political commitments which utilize the term “destructive fishing.” Our definition and results will help reinforce the Food and Agricultural Organization's Code of Conduct and meaningfully support member countries to prohibit destructive fishing practices.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • conservation
  • destructive fishing
  • fisheries
  • policy
  • sustainable development goals


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