The Executive Committee of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade established the IIFET Distinguished Service Award in 1990. The award is given every two years at the IIFET Biennial Conference, to an individual who exemplifies the following criteria.

A primary goal of IIFET is to improve interaction between academia, trade, and government officials in all countries about fisheries policy and factors which affect international trade in seafood. The Distinguished Service Award will thus be given to an individual who has made significant contributions and had an important effect on the ability of individuals of these different professional orientations and countries to exchange information, data, and perspectives on fisheries issues. A further consideration in choosing the recipient will be the individual's contribution to the theory and/or application of economic science to international fisheries industries, trade, management, and/or policy.

Scotland 2016: Stella Williams, for her outstanding achievements in building relationships between academia, government, the seafood industry, and fisherfolk, for mentorship, and for fostering gender equity.
Australia 2014: Sean Pascoe , for his accomplishments in bringing rigorous applied economic research into the service of responsible management of global marine resources, and in fostering the growth and vibrancy of the global community of marine resource economists though education, mentoring and professional interaction.
Tanzania 2012: Ola Flaaten, for extending the global influence of IIFET and for his outstanding service to the world community of fisheries economists.
Montpellier 2010: Susan S. Hanna, for her outstanding service to the fisheries economics profession through research, mentoring, capacity building and policy advice.
Vietnam 2008: Jon G. Sutinen, for his substantial contributions to teaching and research in fisheries economics, the economics of enforcement and compliance, and their application in fisheries management policy internationally.
Portsmouth, UK 2006: Lee Anderson, for his contributions to the theory and practice of fisheries economics, and to promoting a worldwide exchange of perspectives and information on fisheries issues.
Tokyo, Japan 2004: Gordon Munro, for his contribution in the development and application of international trade theory to the management of fisheries.
Wellington, New Zealand 2002: Steve Cunningham, for outstanding contributions to the application of economic theory to global fisheries development, teaching, and research in fisheries economics.
Oregon, USA 2000: Rognvaldur Hannesson, for his outstanding contributions in fisheries economics, management and trade and to IIFET.
Tromso, Norway 1998: Ann Shriver, for her contributions to the vitality, eclat, visibility and image of IIFET.
Marrakesh, Morocco 1996: Parzival Copes, for his outstanding contributions as researcher and educator in fisheries management and development at both applied and conceptual levels.
Taipei, Taiwan 1994: Tadashi Yamamoto
Paris, France 1992: Richard S. Johnston, for his outstanding contributions in international fisheries economics research and education.
Santiago, Chile 1990: Clinton Atkinson