The emerging world crisis created by declining fish stocks poses a challenge to resource users and managers. The problem is particularly acute in poor nations, such as those in East Africa, where fishing is an important subsistence activity but high fishing intensity and use of destructive gear have resulted in declining catches. In this context developing effective management strategies requires an understanding of how fishers may respond to declines in catch. We examined the readiness of 141 Kenyan fishers to stop fishing under hypothetical scenarios of declines in catch and how socioeconomic conditions influenced their decisions. As expected, the proportion of fishers that would exit the fishery increased with magnitude of decline in catch. Fishers were more likely to say they would stop fishing if they were from households that had a higher material style of life and a greater number of occupations. Variables such as capital investment in the fishery and the proportion of catch sold had weak, nonsignificant relationships. Our finding that fishers from poorer households would be less likely to exit a severely declining fishery is consistent with the literature on poverty traps, which suggests the poor are unable to mobilize the necessary resources to overcome either shocks or chronic low-income situations and consequently may remain in poverty. This finding supports the proposition that wealth generation and employment opportunities directed at the poorest fishers may help reduce fishing effort on overexploited fisheries, but successful interventions such as these will require an understanding of the socioeconomic context in which fishers operate.