• Fishery overexploitation;
  • marine fisheries;
  • rebuilding plan;
  • stock status;
  • world summit goal


Many of the world’s fish stocks are depleted as a result of overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) sets a target for fisheries to maintain or restore stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015. We assessed the global stock status and found that 68% were at or above the MSY level in 2008 and that the 2015 target is unlikely to be met. We compiled data for eight indicators to evaluate the sustainability of fisheries and the gap to meet the WSSD target. These indicators show that the overall condition of global fisheries is declining, long-term benefits are being compromised, and pressures on fisheries are increasing despite fisheries policy and management actions being taken by coastal States. We develop a bio-economic model to estimate the costs and benefits of restoring overfished stocks. Our results show that the global fishing capacity needs to be cut by 36–43% from the 2008 level, resulting in the loss of employment of 12–15 million fishers and costing US$96–358 billion for buybacks. On the other hand, meeting the WSSD goal will increase annual fishery production by 16.5 million tonnes, annual rent by US$32 billion and improve biodiversity and functioning of marine ecosystems. However, progress towards rebuilding has been hindered by an unwillingness or inability to accept the short-term socio-economic consequences associated with rebuilding fisheries. Thus, there is a pressing need for integration of rebuilding plans into national political and economic decision-making.