Abstract I address the question of the fluctuations in fishery landings. Using the fishery statistics time-series collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since the early 1950s, I here analyze fishing activities and find two scaling features of capture fisheries production: (i) the standard deviation of growth rate of the domestically landed catches decays as a power–law function of country landings with an exponent of value 0.15 and (ii) the average number of fishers in a country scales to the 0.7 power of country landings. I show how these socio-ecological patterns may be related, yielding a scaling relation between these exponents. The predicted scaling relation implies that the width of the annual per capita growth-rate distribution scales to the 0.2 power of country landings, i.e. annual fluctuations in per capita landed catches increase with increased per capita catches in highly producing countries. Beside the scaling behavior, I report that fluctuations in the annual domestic landings have increased in the last 30 years, while the mean of the annual growth rate declined significantly after 1972.