How can policies for governing marine fisheries become more effective? How can we engage in developing a new science of fisheries governance that promotes knowledge accumulation and collective learning? We look into these issues by reviewing the current social-ecological status of marine fisheries, common policy approaches in place to govern them, and key learned lessons and shortcomings. While great efforts have been made towards understanding marine governance in the last 50 years, if we are to meet the current and upcoming challenges facing global fisheries, we need to engage with systematic knowledge accumulation about governance performance. To this end we report on a novel classificatory framework which, while nascent, could offer the potential to help us move in that direction.