Overexploitation is one of the principal threats to coral reef diversity, structure, function, and resilience [1, 2]. Although it is generally held that coral reef fisheries are unsustainable [3-5], little is known of the overall scale of exploitation or which reefs are overfished . Here, on the basis of ecological footprints and a review of exploitation status [7, 8], we report widespread unsustainability of island coral reef fisheries. Over half (55%) of the 49 island countries considered are exploiting their coral reef fisheries in an unsustainable way. We estimate that total landings of coral reef fisheries are currently 64% higher than can be sustained. Consequently, the area of coral reef appropriated by fisheries exceeds the available effective area by approximately 75,000 km(2), or 3.7 times the area of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and an extra 196,000 km(2) of coral reef may be required by 2050 to support the anticipated growth in human populations. The large overall imbalance between current and sustainable catches implies that management methods to reduce social and economic dependence on reef fisheries are essential to prevent the collapse of coral reef ecosystems while sustaining the well-being of burgeoning coastal populations.