Following implementation in a range of other resource sectors, a number of credit-like systems have been proposed for fisheries. But confusion exists over what constitutes these nascent ‘fisheries credit’ systems and how they operate. Based on a review of credit systems in other sectors, this study fills this gap by defining how credit systems function and what credits add to prevailing fisheries management. In doing so, we distinguish ‘mitigation’ and ‘behavioural’ fishery credits. Mitigation credits require resource users to compensate for unsustainable catches of target species, by-catch species or damaging practices on the marine environment by investing in conservation in a biologically equivalent habitat or resource. Behavioural credit systems incentivize fishers to gradually change their fishing behaviour to more sustainable fishing methods by rewarding them with, for instance, extra fishing effort to compensate for less efficient but more sustainable fishing methods. The choice of credit system largely depends on the characteristics of specific fisheries and the management goals agreed upon by managers, scientists and the fishing industry. The study concludes that fisheries credit systems are different but complimentary to other forms of management by focusing on ‘catchability’ or gear efficiency in addition to effort or catch quota, affecting overall economic efficiency by setting specific goals as to how fish are caught. Credit systems therefore incentivize specific management interventions that can directly improve stock sustainability, conserve habitat and endangered species, or decrease by-catch.