Defining and Measuring “Destructive Fishing” in Support of Achieving SDG14 – Life Below Water

Defining and Measuring “Destructive Fishing” in Support of Achieving SDG14 – Life Below Water

Fisheries as a practice, and the pressures these activities place on fish populations, other marine species and marine ecosystems are incredibly diverse in nature. As such, a diversity of approaches are required to overcome the challenges faced and aid transitions to more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. This project aims for a greater shared understanding of what “destructive fishing” is and the problems it causes, through using an expert review to provide decision-makers with a framework to drive improved understanding and action on this issue. We aim to ensure that “destructive fishing” is seen as a distinct problem, worthy of increased political and corporate action.

The project is guided by a small Project Advisory Group made up of representatives from IUCN’s Fisheries Expert Group, the International Whaling Commission and the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers.

Project Aims

The project is guided by the main UN SDG target relating to fisheries (14.4). While there has been significant progress in addressing “overfishing” and “illegal fishing”, a further focal area of this target is “destructive fishing”, which has received far less focus. We therefore aim to:

  • Explore consensus around the term “destructive fishing” drawing on perspectives from across the conservation sector, the seafood industry, policy-makers and academic organisations, to develop a coherent framework and set of draft definitions.
  • Identify opportunities to measure progress and define ‘success’ towards the ambition “reducing destructive fishing practices”, through a high-level evidence review
  • Encourage interest from decision-makers or corporates in use of these outputs, to develop/change legal frameworks or codes of practice.

Key Activities

  • Stakeholder analysis exercise to ensure robust geographical and sectoral representation
  • Design, dissemination and results analysis of questionnaire to identified stakeholder groups focusing on which management regimes and ecological conditions make a given practice “destructive” to support development of draft definition/scope
  • Participatory stakeholder workshops with sectoral representatives to discuss questionnaire results and determine evidence needed to measure destructive fishing under draft definition/scope
  • Development of a targeted policy brief based on evidence synthesis and engagement with relevant sectors, fisheries/multi-lateral bodies
  • Submission of recommendations to decision-making fora (e.g. processes around UN 2030 Agenda and SDGs, post-2020 CBD agenda, Regional Fisheries Management Organisation meetings)

Conservation Impact

The results will lead to:

  • Increased global dialogue around “destructive fishing’’, contributing toward biodiversity becoming more central to fisheries debates.
  • Decision-makers having a set of directions towards quantifying “destructive fishing”, enabling more impactful and evidence-based policy development.
  • Decision-makers making initial steps in responding to “destructive fishing”

In the longer term we hope this project will contribute to better policies and corporate decisions that recognize the need to diversify/adapt operations to reduce “destructive fishing”. Ultimately, this is intended to lead to reduced negative impacts on marine biodiversity resulting from wild-capture seafood production.


  1. Multi-sector stakeholder-driven framework to define “destructive fishing”

Framework based on results of the multi-sector questionnaire and workshops, drawing out areas of contrast and common ground e.g. which practices/scenarios/conditions is there most/least agreement on as “destructive”.


  1. High-level systematic review of evidence to enable possible measurement of “destructive fishing”

Use of a systematic review approach to present a “first effort” at identifying and applying evidence to quantify global progress in “reducing destructive fishing”.


  1. Policy recommendation paper/brief around “destructive fishing” definition/measurement

A condensed synthesis of the results of outputs 1 and 2, drawing out key recommendations.

CCI partners Involved


Project Cover Image  © Michelangelo Pignani/Fauna & Flora International