Artisanal coral reef fisheries provide food and employment to hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, making their sustainability a high priority. However, many of these fisheries are degraded and not yielding their maximum socioeconomic returns. We present a literature review that evaluates foci and trends in research effort on coral reef fisheries. We describe the types of data and categories of management recommendations presented in the 464 peer-reviewed articles returned. Identified trends include a decline in articles reporting time-series data, fish catch biomass and catch-per-unit effort, and an increase in articles containing bycatch and stakeholder interview data. Management implications were discussed in 80% of articles, with increasing frequency over time, but only 22% of articles made management recommendations based on the research presented in the article, as opposed to more general recommendations. Key future research priorities, which we deem underrepresented in the literature at present, are: (i) effectiveness of management approaches, (ii) ecological thresholds, trade-offs and sustainable levels of extraction, (iii) effects of climate change, (iv) food security, (v) the role of aquaculture, (vi) access to and control of fishery resources, (vii) relationships between economic development and fishery exploitation, (viii) alternative livelihoods and (ix) integration of ecological and socioeconomic research.