Fisheries and aquaculture

Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture policies for the future

Fisheries and aquaculture provide food for hundreds of millions of people around the world every day, and employ over 10% of the world’s population, many of them women. However, marine and aquatic ecosystems are under stress – from climate change, fishing pressure, and pollution from various human activities, which lead to ocean acidification and declining biodiversity.

Recent estimates suggest that about one-third of global marine fish stocks are biologically overfished, up from about 10% in the mid-1970s. And the rapid progress of aquaculture production (the farming of aquatic organisms) now represents more than wild catches globally, raises concerns about pollution, disease, invasive species and costal ecosystem degradation in various parts of the world.

It is estimated that global fisheries could generate an additional USD 80 billion in value annually if they were optimally managed. Over a quarter of this foregone value is believed to be caused by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which reduces the resources available to legal fishers, undermines governments’ capacity to manage fish stocks sustainably, and reduces public revenue.

Helping governments sustainably manage fisheries, aquaculture, and protect the environment

Governments are increasingly aware of the shortcomings of fisheries and aquaculture management frameworks, and that smarter regulations and new technologies are needed if sustainability and productivity are to be improved. Many solutions are already available, which is why the OECD produced a handbook for fisheries managers to help policy makers around the world design good policies.

However, achieving reform in fisheries and aquaculture policy can be difficult. A broad range of interests are typically at stake and it is often difficult and expensive to collect data on marine resources and ecosystems. OECD research helps governments find a successful pathway to reform through improved governance, stakeholder consultation, and mobilization of scientific evidence and analysis.

The international community is also making an effort to combat IUU fishing with the objective of meeting specific targets adopted in 2015 under UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, as well as in the context of trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization and through discussions in regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). Two reports recently published by the OECD review the progress made over the last decade in implementing best policies and practices against IUU fishing among OECD countries and in RFMOs, and identifies regulatory loopholes and policy gaps which still need to be addressed.

Dialogue on fisheries and aquaculture policies at the OECD

The OECD helps governments establish good policies to achieve environmentally sound fisheries and sustainable aquaculture to support resilient communities, provide quality food and secure livelihoods. Our work contributes to a more robust evidence base for policy making, and promotes a dialogue among and between authorities in charge of fisheries and aquaculture policies in OECD member countries and beyond.

Our biennial Review of Fisheries covers nearly half of global fisheries production and the majority of aquaculture production, tracking and quantifying developments in management frameworks and activities in the fishing and aquaculture sectors of OECD countries and important non-member fishing economies.

We also help support dialogue on government support to the fisheries sector using the OECD Fisheries Support Estimate (FSE) database, which measures fisheries support policies in a consistent and transparent way across all OECD member countries and other important fishing economies. The FSE and associated modelling work allow investigation of the impacts of fisheries support policies on resources and ecosystems as well as on jobs, incomes and value creation with a view to adjust policies to better deliver the goals they were designed to meet.

Latest update

Fisheries, aquaculture and COVID-19: Issues and policy responses

Fisheries and aquaculture provide nutritious food for hundreds of millions of people around the world and livelihoods for over 10% of the world’s population. All aspects of fish supply chains are strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with jobs, incomes and food security at risk. Government and industry responses are needed to address the immediate economic and social hardships that the crisis is provoking in the fish sector. Governments also need to maintain long-term ambitions for protecting natural resources and ecosystems, and the viability of fisheries.


About the fisheries support estimates

Governments provide support to their fisheries sectors through a wide range of policies, including fisheries stock management, monitoring, control and surveillance, infrastructure, research, fuel tax exemptions and direct contributions to fishers’ incomes. The objectives vary but tend to centre around goals such as maintaining fishery employment, or improving fishers’ welfare and the sustainability of the sector and the resources it relies on.

The OECD has developed a Fisheries Support Estimate (FSE) database to measure and describe fisheries support policies in a consistent and transparent way across all OECD member countries and key non-member economies with significant marine fisheries. The FSE, and associated modelling work, provide a basis for users to investigate the impacts of support on resources and ecosystems as well as on jobs, incomes and value creation with a view to adjust policies to better deliver the goals they were designed to meet.

Fisheries support is defined in the FSE as the annual monetary value of gross transfers to fishers from taxpayers, arising from policies targeted to the fisheries sector, whether their objectives are social, economic or environmental. Most reported policies are directed towards general support of the sector, primarily management services and infrastructure investments. This support is included in the General Services Support Estimate (GSSE) part of the FSE. Support received directly by fishers mainly takes the form of income support and disaster assistance and is classified in the database as transfers to individual fishers (TIF). Fishers also benefit from some forms of support that are not exclusive to the fishing sector, such as tax policiesexemptions that reduce the cost of fuel, which are widely available in an economy. Such support policies are not included in the FSE, even though they benefit the sector. The OECD has estimated the value of these in a separate report.

The FSE data are updated each year, and individual policy measures for each country can be accessed on OECD.Stat. They are classified and tagged according to the type of measures, who the beneficiaries are, and the conditions attached to eligibility – for example in terms of sustainable fishing practices.

For more detail on the definitions and classification system, you can reference the FSE Manual.

Fisheries and aquaculture data

The OECD collects annual data on production, trade, value and more for fisheries and aquaculture OECD member economies and beyond.  Access the latest data via OECD.Stat. The Fisheries Support Estimate (FSE) is our unique database of support to fisheries covering 35 countries, including supporting metadata on how such support is designed and delivered. Access the full data and metadata by country below.


Trends and prospects in fisheries and aquaculture are assessed in the context of national, regional and global food commodity markets as part of the Agricultural Outlook, published collaboratively by the OECD and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

OECD Fish Dictionary app

The OECD’s Multilingual Dictionary of Fish and Fish Products is a world standard guide to the names of fish and fish products traded internationally.

This dictionary comprises over 1000 items, with descriptions in English and French and the equivalents for the main heading in 18 other languages: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Scientific names are also provided.

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Fisheries and aquaculture publications

Access OECD publications on Fisheries on the OECD iLibrary. 

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All of our food, agriculture and fisheries research and analysis is available to read online for free on the OECD iLibrary.

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