International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability

Session 1

The status of global and regional fisheries sustainability and their implications for policy and management

FAO session leads: Yimin Ye and Nicolas Gutierrez

Speakers and panelists

Webcast link

Key messages

Sustainable fisheries are critical for marine ecosystems and for communities dependent on fish and fisheries. Although no universal definition exists, there is a general concordance that sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the context of fisheries, these needs can include a complex array of objectives, such as food provision, employment opportunities, income and nutrition requirements, as well as a wide range of social aspects. Given this complexity, fisheries sustainability needs to be translated into practical indicators to facilitate policy implementation and monitoring its effectiveness.

Abundance-based and fishing mortality-based indicators are commonly used to measure ecological sustainability. FAO has monitored the state of the world's fishery stocks since 1974 and currently carries out the assessment of about 450 stocks by FAO statistical area, which are used to determine geographically disaggregated ecological sustainability indices, which are reported in the FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report every two years. SOFIA is aimed at analysing major trends in fisheries and aquaculture, including the state of fishery resources. Those analyses are mostly based on the results of formal stock assessments carried out by research institutes, management agencies, and regional and international fisheries bodies or, where such quantitative information is not available, on qualitative assessments that use FAO's global capture statistics together with various sources of auxiliary information. For inland fisheries, the limitations of country level statistics and their associated environmental drivers turn their stock status determination very challenging. The Sustainable Development Goal 14 set a target of rebuilding all overfished stocks by 2020 and adopted Indicator 14.4.1 "proportion of fish stocks within biological sustainable levels" to monitor progress of individual countries against this target. Both SOFIA and SDG Indicator are based on the concept of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), in line with other international instruments.

This session will focus on three things. First, what is the current status of global and regional fisheries sustainability? Second, what are the challenges and potential solutions for monitoring stock status at regional and global level? And third, what are the challenges and solutions to move the world's fisheries towards biological sustainability, with a particular emphasis on developing regions? Ultimately, the goal of the session is to identify progress and failures on monitoring the status of ecological sustainability at global and regional level as well as to understand what's needed to improve fisheries sustainability at the global level.

The topics of this session are closely connected to efforts to achieve Sustainable Goal 14 target 4, whose indicator is based on the "proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels". In this context, this session will also seek to answer the following questions:

  • How far are we from the Target 14.4 on effectively regulating fisheries and ending overfishing?
  • How can we best monitor progress towards Target 14.4?
  • What are the challenges and lessons learnt in pursuit of Target 14.4?

The session will also aim to develop a research agenda and strategy for:

  • Enhancing policy and management practices to improve fisheries performance around the world; and;
  • Identifying practical pathways to sustainable fisheries, particularly for regions that are in most need.   

The outcomes of this session will support:

SDG 1 – Reduce poverty
SDG 2 – Food security
SDG 8 – Economic growth
SDG targets 14.4, 14.6 & 14.A
SIDS Samoa Pathways
FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries