Global Fishing Index


While India has most elements of a developed fisheries governance system, it has made limited progress towards restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels. Critically, over half of India’s catch comes from unassessed stocks, whose status is unknown.

India is the eighth largest producer of wild-caught fisheries in the world.1 With nearly 20 per cent of India’s population residing in coastal areas, fisheries are of critical importance to supporting the food, nutrition and livelihoods of its people.2 With a coastline of over 7,500 kilometres3 and national waters that cover over 2.3 million square kilometres, India faces considerable challenges to effectively monitor fisheries in its waters. Previous research has identified that vessels flagged to India are at moderate risk for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing4 and labour exploitation and modern slavery.5

India has most elements of a developed system of fisheries governance, yet it has demonstrated limited progress in the sustainable management of its fisheries. Clear gaps remain in terms of collecting high-quality fisheries information and using this information to inform science-based management. Although 78 per cent of India’s assessed stocks are considered sustainable, these stocks account for only 26 per cent of the total catch in India’s waters since 1990. Most of India’s catch (65 per cent) comes from stocks that are not formally assessed or that lack publicly available data to estimate stock status, therefore it is unknown if they are sustainable or not. India must urgently work to increase its knowledge on the state of all the fisheries in its waters.


To improve the sustainability of its fisheries, India should:

Strengthen fisheries monitoring programs to gather high-quality information, including catch and effort data.
Expand the use of evidence-based management measures, such as catch and effort limits, across all fisheries.
Increase transparency and reporting of fisheries data to increase accountability and enable independent monitoring.
Ratify and implement the 2009 FAO Port State Measures Agreement and adopt a National Plan of Action to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Ratify and implement the 2007 ILO Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) and the 2012 IMO Cape Town Agreement to protect worker rights and safety in fisheries.

Progress towards SDG target 14.4

While India performs in the top one-third of countries globally for progress towards SDG target 14.4, and is the second highest performing country in Central, Southern, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, it is still far from achieving sustainability in all fisheries in its waters.

India demonstrates relatively high stock sustainability, but progress toward SDG target 14.4 is hindered by the large proportion of catch that remains unassessed (65 per cent) – meaning that it comes from stocks without sufficient publicly available information to determine their status. This is primarily due to a lack of reporting at the species level, which is crucial for assessing stock health. This knowledge gap is of major concern considering the role of fish in feeding India’s population and its importance as one of the largest producers of wild caught fisheries.

Of the 76 stocks assessed, 59 stocks (78 per cent) are estimated to be within sustainable levels of abundance – that is, at or above 40 per cent of unfished levels. However, these sustainable stocks account for only 26 per cent of the total marine catch in India’s national waters (since 1990). Nine per cent of the total catch is estimated to be from overfished stocks, and the remainder of the catch (65 per cent) comes from stocks of unknown status.

Fisheries governance

Globally, India performs in the top one-third of countries globally for its fisheries governance – but mid-range in Central, Southern, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. India has most elements of a developed fisheries governance system that, where implemented, promotes sustainable fishing. However, clear gaps remain in terms of collecting high-quality fisheries information, using this information to inform science-based management and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

India has a solid national fisheries policy foundation with clearly stated environmental, economic and livelihood objectives. It has ratified some international agreements for fisheries management; however, it is yet to ratify the 2009 FAO Port State Measures Agreement, which is critical for combatting IUU fishing. Additionally, India has not yet ratified key agreements for protecting worker rights and safety in fisheries, including the 2007 ILO Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) and the 2012 IMO Cape Town Agreement.

India continues to provide harmful fisheries subsides including reduced fuel prices and tax exemptions. Over 65 per cent – worth an estimated USD$158 million in 2018 – of subsidies are spent on these potentially harmful activities, rather than using funds for activities that promote marine conservation and fisheries management. While these harmful subsidy types encourage industry development, they have also been linked to overcapacity and overfishing, particularly in the industrial sector.6

There is evidence that India has financial and professional capacity to manage its fisheries; however, it faces challenges in effectively translating this into on-the-water management activities. For example, while it is mandatory to collect critical fisheries information, such as fishing effort data, in key fisheries, there is evidence that this is not regularly done, and where this information is collected, it is not independently verified to ensure accuracy. Despite these data gaps, India uses science-based catch and/or effort limits to manage fishing pressure in some fisheries. However, harvest control rules – pre-determined rules that guide management action, based on the state of fisheries resources – are not used, even in the most valuable fishery.

India uses a range to tools to control access to its fisheries resources, including fishing licences and vessel registration requirements, and spatial restrictions, including a coastal fishing zone that excludes industrial vessels from inshore areas. Foreign-flagged vessels are also prohibited from fishing in India’s waters; however, a small amount of fishing by foreign-flagged vessels was detected in India’s waters in 2019 (approximately 30 fishing days).

While India has components of a compliance management system, such as on-water and in-port fisheries inspections and graduated sanctions for fisheries violations, critical gaps remain that may increase the risk of IUU fishing. Most notably, India is yet to implement a National Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. The low perceived integrity of India’s enforcement of laws, rules and regulations7 may further undermine the effectiveness of the fisheries compliance management system.8

India provides opportunities for stakeholders to participate in fisheries management through the decentralisation of management responsibilities to lower levels of authority – for example, through community-based or customary management. However, there may be limited stakeholder capacity to engage due to limited fisher representation groups (such as cooperatives or associations) and a lack of transparency around decision-making, for example by not publishing management meeting minutes.

Key metrics

Metric Value
Progress score 27.0 out of 100
Total reconstructed catch in 2018 4.1 million tonnes
Total reconstructed catch (1990 to 2018) 99.3 million tonnes
Sustainable stocks 78%
Overfished stocks 22%
Catch from sustainable stocks (1990 to 2018) 26%
Catch from overfished stocks (1990 to 2018) 9%
Catch from unassessed stocks (1990 to 2018) 65%
Governance capacity Medium: Level 7 of 12

Methods and data sources

India is considered part of the Central, Southern, Eastern and South-East Asian region. Refer to the Technical Methods for a detailed explanation of the methods used by the Minderoo Foundation to produce the 2021 Global Fishing Index. The Technical Methods should be read in conjunction with the Global Fishing Index Key Insights report, Governance Conceptual Framework and Indicator Codebook.

India’s Progress score was informed by 76 assessed fish stocks. Seventy-three stocks had recent published official stock assessments, including 11 assessments from regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). The remaining three stocks were assessed using publicly available data and established data limited methods (CMSY++ or the Bayesian Schaefer Model).910 Catch and stock sustainability estimates were reviewed by one local fisheries expert prior to finalisation.

India’s governance assessment was informed by one questionnaire respondent, interviews with two local fisheries experts and the publicly available literature. Consulted references are listed in the bibliography below. Our assessments measure country-level fisheries governance, with eight indicators referring specifically to a country’s most valuable fishery, as identified by respondents. The most valuable fishery identified for India was the multi-species trawl fishery.

Governance bibliography

The following sources informed India’s governance assessment:

Central Marine Fisheries Research Insititue (2019). Marine Fish Landings in India – 2018, ICAR, Kerala, India, pp. 1-16. [8 May 2020]

Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, (2018). Annual Report 2017-18, Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, pp. 1-206. [8 May 2020]

Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, New Guidelines dated 12.11.14 for fishing operations in Indian exclusive economic zone 5 (2014). [8 May 2020]

Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, (2020). ReAL Craft- Registration and Licensing of Fishing Craft. [8 May 2020]

Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, (2010). Marine Fisheries Census 2010 India, Central Marine Fisheries Research Insititue, New Delhi, India, pp. 1-110. [8 May 2020]

Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, (2019). Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying Shri Giriraj Singh releases “Handbook on Fisheries Statistics – 2018; Average growth in fish production during 2017-18 stands at 10.14% with 14% increase in Inland fisheries. [8 May 2020]

Department of Fisheries (n.d.). Citizens Charter for Department of Fisheries, [8 May 2020]

Directorate General of Shipping (2020.). Fishing Boats. [8 May 2020]

Department of Fisheries (2020). Organizational chart and work allocation among divisions in the Department of Fisheries. [8 May 2020]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2019). Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles. The Republic of India. [8 May 2020]

Gibinkumar, T.R. (2020). National traceability practices for fish and fishery products – India, The Marine Products Export Development Authority, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. [10 June 2020]

Gina, A., Kristen, B., Katie, P. and Alana, Y. (2014). A global assessment of Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries to determine variability in success and design. [8 May 2020]

Government of India, The Marine Fisheries Regulation and Management Bill (2019). [8 May 2020]

IndiaCode, Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 (1958). [8 May 2020]

Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, (2020). Fishery Resources Assessment Division. [8 May 2020]

Jacob, M.J.K. and Rao, P.B. (2016). Socio-ecological studies on marine fishing villages in the selective south coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 134, pp. 344-349, [8 May 2020]

Kirtika, S. (2019). EU, US oppose India on ending sops that aid illegal fishing. [8 May 2020]

Maharashtra Information Technology Corporation (2020). Govt of India. Procedure to apply fishing license. [8 May 2020]

Mohanty, P.K., Khora, S.S., Panda, U.S., Mohapatra, G.N. and Mishra, P. (1985). An overview of sardines and anchovies fishery along the Indian coasts, Department of Marine Sciences, Berhampur University, Orissa, India, pp. 1-12. [8 May 2020]

National Board of Accreditation, The Maritime Zones of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Rules, 1982 (1982). [8 May 2020]

National Fisheries Development Board (2020). Ushering Blue Revolution in India, National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad-500 052. India, pp. 1-2. [8 May 2020]

National Fisheries Development Board (n.d.). Fish and Fisheries of India, pp. 1-36. [10 June 2020]

Rajesh, K.M., Fisheries Legislation in India (n.d.). pp. 42-50. [8 May 2020]

Ramachandran, A. (2016). Deep Sea Fishing Policies in India from 1981 to 2017- An Analysis, Fisheries Management School of Industrial Fisheries, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Cochin, India, pp. 1-6. [8 May 2020]

Yadava, Y.S. (2000). Nature, Scope and Objectives of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, p. 24.[35 [8 May 2020]


1Based on estimated reconstructed catch within each country’s national waters between 2014 – 2018. Pauly, D., Zeller, D. and Palomares, M.L.D. (2021). Sea Around Us Concepts, Design and Data. [30 June 2021]
2Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2019). Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles. The Republic of India. [8 May 2020]
3As above
4Macfadyen, G., Hosch, G., Kaysser, N. and Tagziria, L. (2019). The Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Index, Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Limited and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. [13 July 2021]
5Walk Free Foundation (2018). The Global Slavery Index 2018, Minderoo Foundation, Perth, Australia, pp. 1-292. [1 March 2019]
6Sumaila, U.R., Khan, A.S., Dyck, A.J., Watson, R., Munro, G., Tydemers, P. and Pauly, D. (2010). A Bottom-Up Re-estimation of Global Fisheries Subsidies, Journal of Bioeconomics 12, (3), pp. 201-225, [18 May 2020]
7Based on country results for Attribute 5.3, “Integrity of the fisheries enforcement system”; Coppedge, M., Gerring, J., Knutsen, C.H., Lindberg, S., Teorell, I.J., Altman, D., Bernhard, M., Fish, M.S., Glynn, A., Hicken, A., Luhrmann, A., Marquardt, K.L., McMann, K., Paxton, P., Pemstein, D., Seim, B., Sigman, R., Skaaning, S.-E., Staton, J., Wilson, S., Cornell, A., Gastaldi, L., Gjerløw, H., Hindle, G., Ilchenko, N., Maxwell, L., Mechkova, V., Medzihorsky, J., von Romer, J., Sundstrom, A., Tzelgov, E., Wang, Y.-t., Wig, T. and Ziblatt, D. (2020). ”V-Dem 2019 Dataset v10” Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project. [27 August 2020]
8Becker, G.S. (2000). Crime and Punishment: an Economic Approach, in: Fielding, N.G., Clarke, A., Witt, R. (Eds.). The Economic Dimensions of Crime, Palgrave Macmillan UK, London, pp. 13-68. [9 November 2021]
9Froese, R., Demirel, N., Coro, G., Kleisner, K.M. and Winker, H. (2017). Estimating Fisheries Reference Points from Catch and Resilience, Fish and Fisheries 18, (3), pp. 506-526, [03 June 2021]
10Froese, R., Winker, H., Coro, G., Palomares, M.L.D., Tsikliras, A.C., Dimarchopoulou, D., Touloumis, K., Demirel, N., Vianna, G.M.S., Scarcella, G., Schijns, R., Liang, C. and Pauly, D. (in review). Catch Time Series As the Basis For Fish Stock Assessments: The CMSY++ Method, Fish and Fisheries, [3 March 2021]