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Inland fish and fisheries integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals


Inland fish provide food for billions and livelihoods for millions of people worldwide and are integral to effective freshwater ecosystem function, yet the recognition of these services is notably absent in development discussions and policies, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). How might the SDGs be enhanced if inland fishery services were integrated into policies and development schemes? Here, we examine the relationships between inland fish, sustainable fisheries, and functioning freshwater systems and the targets of the SDGs. Our goal is to highlight synergies across the SDGs, particularly No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12) and Life on Land (SDG 15), that can be achieved with the inclusion of these overlooked inland fishery services.

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Fig. 1: Relationships between inland fishery services and SDGs.

SDG icons ( are used with UN/SDG permission

Fig. 2: Correlogram of inland fishery services based on their relationships to the SDGs.
Fig. 3: Dendrogram of the SDGs based on relationships to the two groups of inland fishery services.

SDG icons ( are used with UN/SDG permission


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We thank D. Beard (USGS), S. Cooke (Carleton University), I. Cowx (University of Hull), J. Dalton (IUCN) and other colleagues that we consulted as experts during this exercise; K. Malpeli (USGS) for assistance with figures; S. Carpenter (University of Wisconsin) for feedback on an initial draft; and K. Pope (USGS – University of Nebraska – Lincoln) for conducting an internal USGS peer review. All authors are members of the InFish Research Network ( No funding sources had any role in the scoring exercise or in the preparation, review or approval of this manuscript. Any use of trade, firm or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government. The content of this publication has not been approved by the United Nations and does not reflect the views of the United Nations or its officials or Member States.

Author information




A.J.L., V.E. and S.C.P. conceived and designed the exercise. A.J.L., V.E., S.C.P., J.E.C., I.H., K.J.M., E.A.S. and G.L.S. conducted the scoring exercise. A.J.L. analysed the data. A.J.L., V.E., S.C.P., J.E.C., I.H., K.J.M., E.A.S. and G.L.S. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Abigail J. Lynch.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods.

Supplementary Table

Supplementary Table 1. Full matrix used for scoring inland fishery services (see Table 1) with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. Scoring was based on the following scale: +, green, a positive relationship (the service will increase successful target implementation); +/–, yellow, there is a direct relationship, but its direction is unclear, ambiguous or bidirectional (for example, a U-shaped relationship); •, there is no clear relationship (or the relationship is weak and indirect); double symbols (for example, ++) indicate particularly strong relationships.

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Lynch, A.J., Elliott, V., Phang, S.C. et al. Inland fish and fisheries integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nat Sustain 3, 579–587 (2020).

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