Improving the selectivity of fishing gear and practices has been a challenge for fishers, scientists, and policy-makers for decades. In Europe, urgency increased with the introduction of the landing obligation. Voluntary uptake of proven selective gears has been poor across the globe. To increase uptake levels, a move from science-led to industry-led development of selective gears has been advocated. In the Netherlands, gear innovation has, since the mid-2000s, been fisher-led. Nevertheless, this did not result in the assumed increase in uptake. Our qualitative study amongst Dutch demersal fishers shows that decisions to voluntarily adopt proven fishing gear are driven by a complex interplay of social, policy,and science-related factors. These can be attributed to two behavioural components: Willingness and Ability. Willingness, our study showed,is closely linked to: (i) intrinsic motivations and beliefs about sustainable fishing as well as perceptions about the motivations and behaviour of other fishers; (ii) the extent to which fishers consider policy goals and regulations as legitimate; and (iii) strong normative beliefs amongst fishers about the presence (or absence) of a level playing field, in terms of both the same rules applying to all and trust in compliance and enforcement.Ability is associated with knowledge, skills, economic, and legal possibilities to enable voluntary uptake, and tends to be the focus of science and policy. We conclude that a narrow focus on Ability as a driver for encouraging selective fishing is unlikely to result in real changes, and recommend a stronger emphasis on addressing social, policy- and science-related factors associated with Willingness in encouraging more selective fisheries.