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      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, though at a reduced rate

      The sustainability of global fishery resources continues to decline, having dropped from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8 percent in 2017. Fish stocks within biologically sustainably levels contributed 78.7 percent of the global marine fish landings in 2017, which have remained relatively stable at around 80 million tonnes since 1995. Despite the continuous deterioration, the rate of decline has slowed down in the most recent period.

      The global trend masks great variations in the proportion of sustainable fish stocks between different regions. In 2017, the Mediterranean and Black Sea continued to have the highest percentage of stocks fished at unsustainable levels (62.5 percent), followed by the Southeast Pacific (54.5 percent) and Southwest Atlantic (53.3 percent). By contrast, the Eastern Central Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Northeast Pacific, and Western Central Pacific had the lowest proportion (13–22 percent) of stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels.

      Improved regulations together with effective monitoring and surveillance have proven successful in reverting overfished stocks to biologically sustainable levels. However, the adoption of such measures has generally been slow, particularly in many developing countries. This situation is reflected in the first national fish stock sustainability reports by thirteen countries. A majority of these have active assessment and management systems in place and are therefore able to achieve a higher fish stock sustainability than the world average.


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