Defining “destructive fishing” survey now open: Experts needed!

12th May 2021

An expert survey to explore consensus around the term “destructive fishing” is now open and the CCI team behind this Collaborative Fund project are calling for experts (from academia, the fisheries sector at all scales, civil society, fisheries managers and policymakers) to volunteer their input. Understanding and monitoring this term is central to achieving multiple ambitions within global policy frameworks, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries. Between them, these frameworks provide decision-makers with clear, universal targets associated with ending “overfishing” and “Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing”, but are much less specific on how to define success in reducing or ending “destructive fishing”.

This CCI project seeks to make the use of this term more meaningful in public discourse and more actionable in policy development, building on and expanding previous attempts to characterise “destructive fishing” risk at national levels. Led by Fauna & Flora International and in collaboration with BirdLife International, UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology, the project team has been assembling a broad and diverse expert pool to contribute to the first of a series of online surveys on this topic, with the current survey set to run until the end of July 2021.

Given the context-specific nature of defining any activity, livelihood or commercial practice as “destructive”, the project team are committed to conducting all outreach and research in a constructive, inclusive and participatory manner. The project therefore plans to use the Delphi technique (a structured, iterative and anonymised process of gathering expert knowledge) and the team are excited to work with a broad range of stakeholders on this topic.

Daniel Steadman, Fisheries & Biodiversity Technical Specialist at Fauna & Flora International said: “As a project team, we’re all highly motivated to see sustainable, equitable marine fisheries that are driven by robust ecosystem-based management; defining the problem of ‘destructive fishing’ more clearly can help deliver those solutions. We’re also highly aware we can only better define the term by hearing from everyone with a stake in this, from small-scale fishers to global decision-makers”.

Carolina Hazin, Global Marine Policy Coordinator at BirdLife International added that “Defining this term will be critical to guiding action to halt the negative impacts of such practices. By doing so, we aim to support countries to respond to their global and national biodiversity conservation commitments. Most importantly, we anticipate this effort will drive change towards a healthy ocean for a healthy society”.

Dr David Willer at the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology – whose research interests are predominantly around aquatic food production – explained that: “Enabling our oceans to supply a bounty of nutritious food to the human population without causing ecosystem damage is a centrepiece of our research focus. Building towards a consensus definition for ‘destructive fishing’ represents a key step towards this goal.”

Chris McOwen, Lead Marine Scientist at UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre summarised by saying: “In order to produce seafood in a more sustainable and equitable way, we first need to understand and acknowledge how and where our actions are having a destructive impact and work together to bring about change. This project provides a space for this to happen; giving stakeholders across society an opportunity to share their opinions and experiences of destructive fishing, and in doing so build the evidence base and momentum required to bring about change”.

For more information on the criteria for being involved in this expert review process, please read our brief call for experts flyer. To enquire about participating in the survey or to receive more details on what is expected of participants, please contact Daniel Steadman directly at Please note the online survey will be open until Friday 30 July and is available in English, French and Spanish; the project team is open to translating the survey into further languages upon request.