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Recent reports suggest that many well-assessed fisheries in developed countries are moving toward sustainability. We examined whether the same conclusion holds for fisheries lacking formal assessment, which comprise >80% of global catch. We developed a method using species' life history, catch, and fishery development data to estimate the status of thousands of unassessed fisheries worldwide. We found that small unassessed fisheries are in substantially worse condition than assessed fisheries, but that large unassessed fisheries may be performing nearly as well as their assessed counterparts. Both small and large stocks, however, continue to decline; 64% of unassessed stocks could provide increased sustainable harvest if rebuilt. Our results suggest that global fishery recovery would simultaneously create increases in abundance (56%) and fishery yields (8 to 40%).