Sustainable Development Goals

Indicator 14.4.1 - Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels

This indicator measures the sustainability of the world's marine capture fisheries by their abundance. A fish stock of which abundance is at or greater than the level, that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is classified as biologically sustainable. In contrast, when abundance falls below the MSY level, the stock is considered biologically unsustainable. The indicator will measure progress towards SDG Target 14.4.

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics.

Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels (1974–2020)


Together with the other indicators under SDG 14, it will form a picture of marine activity giving countries intelligence on optimum levels of fishing, aquaculture expansion and fair and secure access to living aquatic resources.

Key results

The sustainability of global fishery resources continues to decline, although the rate of decline has decelerated in recent years. 

The proportion of global fishery resources at biologically sustainable levels has declined from 90 percent in 1974 to 64.6 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, global marine fish landings have remained relatively stable at around 80 million tonnes since 1995. Fish stocks with biologically sustainable levels constituted 82.5 percent of total landings of assessed fish stocks in 2019. Although this share continues to decline, the rate of decline has slowed down over the past decade. 

The proportion of sustainable fish stocks varies greatly between different regions. In 2019, the Southeast Pacific surpassed the Mediterranean and the Black Sea as the marine region with the highest percentage of stocks fished at unsustainable levels (66.7 percent). It was followed by the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (63.4 percent) and the Southwest Atlantic (46.7 percent). The Eastern Central Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Northeast Pacific and Western Central Pacific had the lowest proportion (13 to 21 percent) of stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels.  


Share this page