Marine fisheries contribute to the global economy, from the catching of fish through to the provision of support services for the fishing industry. General lack of data and uncertainty about the level of employment in marine fisheries can lead to underestimation of fishing effort and hence over-exploited fisheries, or result in inaccurate projections of economic and societal costs and benefits. To address this gap, a database of marine fisheries employment for 144 coastal nations was compiled. Gaps in employment data that emerged were filled using a Monte Carlo approach to estimate the number of direct and indirect fisheries jobs. We focused on estimating jobs in the small-scale fishing sector. We characterized small-scale fishing as (i) primarily geared towards household consumption or sale at the local level; (ii) conducted at a low level of economic activity; (iii) minimally mechanized; (iv) conducted within inshore areas; (v) minimally managed; and/or (vi) undertaken for cultural or ceremonial purposes. In total, we estimated that 260 ± 6 million people are involved in global marine fisheries, encompassing full-time and part-time jobs in the direct and indirect sectors, with 22 ± 0.45 million of those being small-scale fishers. This is equivalent to 203 ± 34 million full-time equivalent jobs. Study results can be used to improve management decision making and highlight the need to improve monitoring and reporting of the number of people employed in marine fisheries globally.