Destructive fishing : an expert‐driven definition and exploration of this quasi‐concept

McCarthy, Arlie Hannah and Steadman, Daniel and Richardson, Hannah and Murphy, Jack and Benbow, Sophie and Brian, Joshua I. and Brooks, Holly and Costa‐Domingo, Giulia and Hazin, Carolina and McOwen, Chris and Walker, Jessica and Willer, David F. and Abdi, Mohamad and Auster, Peter J. and Bealey, Roy and Bensted‐Smith, Robert and Broadburn, Kathryn and Carvalho, Gonçalo and Collinson, Tom and Erinosho, Bolanle and Fabinyi, Michael and Febrica, Senia and Forbi, Wilson Ngwa and Garcia, Serge M and Goad, David and Goldsworthy, Lynda and Govan, Hugh and Heaphy, Charles and Hiddink, Jan Geert and Hosch, Gilles and Kachelriess, Daniel and Kinch, Jeff and Lancaster, Alana Malinde S. N. and Le Manach, Frédéric and Matthews, Thomas and Ortiz, Alfonso Medellín and Morgan, Alexia and Motta, Helena and Murua, Hilario and Namboothri, Naveen and Ndiritu, Evelyne and Passfield, Kelvin and Pilcher, Nicolas J. and Portus, James O. and Rguez‐Baron, Juan M. and Robertson, Morven and Sharma, Abhilasha and Suazo, Cristián G. and Tamini, Leandro Luis and Vilata‐Simón, Juan and Mukherjee, Nibedita (2024) Destructive fishing : an expert‐driven definition and exploration of this quasi‐concept. Conservation Letters, 17 (3). e13015. ISSN 1755-263X (

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Numerous policy and international frameworks consider that “destructive fishing” hampers efforts to reach sustainability goals. Though ubiquitous, “destructive fishing” is undefined and therefore currently immeasurable. Here we propose a definition developed through expert consultation: “Destructive fishing is any fishing practice that causes irrecoverable habitat degradation, or which causes significant adverse environmental impacts, results in long-term declines in target or nontarget species beyond biologically safe limits and has negative livelihood impacts.” We show strong stakeholder support for a definition, consensus on many biological and ecological dimensions, and no clustering of respondents from different sectors. Our consensus definition is a significant step toward defining sustainable fisheries goals and will help interpret and implement global political commitments which utilize the term “destructive fishing.” Our definition and results will help reinforce the Food and Agricultural Organization's Code of Conduct and meaningfully support member countries to prohibit destructive fishing practices.