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Ending fishery overexploitation by expanding from local successes to globalized solutions


The United Nations has launched several initiatives to achieve sustainable development, with the most recent being the Sustainable Development Goals within the 2030 Agenda. In a fisheries context, this initiative sets a target of ending overexploitation by 2020. Despite such efforts, the percentage of overfished fish stocks has oscillated around 30% globally since 2009. Here, we show that while developed countries are improving the way they manage their fisheries, developing countries face a worsening situation in terms of overcapacity, production per unit of effort and stock status. This situation is fuelled by economic interdependencies through international trade and fisheries agreements coupled with limited management and governance capacities in developing countries. We conclude that the present successes accomplished in some countries and regions are not sufficient to address the fisheries crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target globally. We highlight an urgent need to replicate and readapt successful policies and measures in the light of the realities of specific fisheries, and to implement transformational changes in fishery management and governance that influence entire sectors of the economy.

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Figure 1: Human development inequality and disparity in fishery patterns.
Figure 2: Fishery trends in the USA and Europe.
Figure 3: Linking fishery patterns to governance.


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We thank F. Carocci for assistance in extracting data from the FAO databases, and S. Garcia and T. A. Branch for their review and valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

Author information




Y.Y. and N.L.G. designed the study, developed the methodology, collected the data, performed the analysis and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Yimin Ye or Nicolas L. Gutierrez.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Tables 2,3, Supplementary Figures 1–4 (PDF 283 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Fish stocks from the RAM database with information on stock status available (from 2007 to 2014). (XLSX 17 kb)

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Ye, Y., Gutierrez, N. Ending fishery overexploitation by expanding from local successes to globalized solutions. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 0179 (2017).

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