The Law of the Sea requires that fish stocks are maintained at levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). However, for most fish stocks, no estimates of MSY are currently available. Here, we present a new method for estimating MSY from catch data, resilience of the respective species, and simple assumptions about relative stock sizes at the first and final year of the catch data time series. We compare our results with 146 MSY estimates derived from full stock assessments and find excellent agreement. We present principles for fisheries management of data-poor stocks, based only on information about catches and MSY.