Three pillars of sustainability in fisheries

F. Asche*, Taryn M. Garlock, J.L. Anderson, S.R. Bush, Martin D. Smith, Christopher M. Anderson, Jingjie Chu, K.A. Garrett, Audun Lem, K. Lorenzen, Atle Oglend, Sigbjorn Tveteras, Stefania Vannuccini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainability of global fisheries is a growing concern. The United Nations has identified three pillars of sustainability: economic development, social development, and environmental protection. The fisheries literature suggests that there are two key trade-offs among these pillars of sustainability. First, poor ecological health of a fishery reduces economic profits for fishers, and second, economic profitability of individual fishers undermines the social objectives of fishing communities. Although recent research has shown that management can reconcile ecological and economic objectives, there are lingering concerns about achieving positive social outcomes. We examined trade-offs among the three pillars of sustainability by analyzing the Fishery Performance Indicators, a unique dataset that scores 121 distinct fishery systems worldwide on 68 metrics categorized by social, economic, or ecological outcomes. For each of the 121 fishery systems, we averaged the outcome measures to create overall scores for economic, ecological, and social performance. We analyzed the scores and found that they were positively associated in the full sample. We divided the data into subsamples that correspond to fisheries management systems with three categories of access—open access, access rights, and harvest rights—and performed a similar analysis. Our results show that economic, social, and ecological objectives are at worst independent and are mutually reinforcing in both types of managed fisheries. The implication is that rights-based management systems should not be rejected on the basis of potentially negative social outcomes; instead, social considerations should be addressed in the design of these systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11221-11225
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
Early online date24 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2018


  • seafood
  • sustainability
  • social
  • economic
  • environmental

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