Working for sustainable fishing | WWF

A third of assessed global fish stocks are overfished and this proportion is steadily increasing. And since not all of the ocean's fish stocks have been assessed, this figure may be an underestimate.

There is an urgent need to work at all levels to drive commercial fisheries towards sustainability while improving the management of the world’s small-scale fisheries and aquaculture practices.

For this reason, WWF invests in solutions that work not only for fish and fishers but for everyone – and that means making long-term sustainable marine management the rule, not the exception.

Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) from Mabul fishermen delivering their catch to Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia.

© Jürgen Freund / WWF

Why fisheries?

Healthy oceans and fisheries are essential for life and the provision of food, livelihoods and a strong marine economy.

Fish is a major source of animal protein
*fish from marine and inland fisheries
12% of the world's population depends on fisheries
40% of coastal fisheries is responsible for 40% of world's wild-caught seafood
90% of fish farmers are small-scale producers from developing countries
The value of global aquaculture production
For the past 40 years, WWF has invested efforts globally to reverse this decline by sharing our experience and expertise with fishermen, processors, retailers, marine industries and communities to develop lasting solutions.

Engagement at the local level...
In our priority regions, WWF focuses on what we define as community-based management—an approach that empowers communities to take charge of ocean resources in a way that safeguards their supply, well into the future. This approach is also at the heart of our work with people who make a living from small-scale commercial or subsistence aquaculture.
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF
Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares)
© Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF

Working together

WWF can't reverse the downward trend in fisheries alone. We forge partnerships with organizations that have complementary areas of expertise, such as Blue Ventures and CARE, because by working together we can catalyze bigger impacts.

► BLOG: How WWF works with CARE and communities in Mozambique to protect critical ecosystems 
► VIDEO: Blue Ventures - a unique conservation approach

Helping small-scale fishers and coastal communities to rely on marine resources sustainably

Making sure that fisheries frameworks also support Marine Protected Areas, to allow stocks to replenish

...working with companies...
Globally, WWF focuses on reducing the negative impacts of the fishing industry in the world’s most ecologically important marine ecoregions and conserving the most commercially valuable species such as tuna and whitefish.

This entails strengthening fisheries policy at local, national and regional levels, and encouraging brands, processors, buyers and retailers to source only well-managed wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture. This includes the advice to only purchase and sell seafood products that can be traced back to their origin and that are recommended as a better choice by reputable certification labels or by a credible seafood guide.
...influencing governments and international law
We need to change the rules of the fisheries game at the highest level, by advocating for ecosystem-based management including in the high seas, tracking down illegal fishers, finding practical solutions for unmanaged fisheries and defining new business models that will transform the way fisheries perform.

This requires strategic partnerships, sustained capacity and forward thinking. As the following examples show, the approach pays off:

Fisheries & ecosystems: 2 sides of the same coin

Too often, fisheries operations disregard the fact that healthy fish stocks depend on a healthy ocean and responsible management. This is where Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) comes in, an approach to find new ways to manage fish stocks without harming other species, protecting ecosystems and ultimately supporting sustainable fisheries and the fishers that depend on them.

WWF was the first conservation organization to produce an international holistic framework for EBM of marine capture fisheries.