In the Indian Ocean region fish and other marine living resources are vital for food security, local livelihoods, national economies, and future development opportunities. Of particular importance is the small-scale fishing sector, which supplies food and employment for many local people and coastal communities. To ensure the longevity of artisanal and subsistence fisheries, and healthy oceans and marine living resources, improved legal governance is critical. Most Indian Ocean States have adopted fisheries laws to achieve this goal, yet successfully balancing conservation and sustainable use of marine resources remains a challenge. To enhance fisheries laws in efficient, effective and equitable ways, inclusive governance approaches are needed. This article analyses fisheries laws in six Indian Ocean States, and critically assesses the incorporation of participatory approaches that support small-scale fisheries. The comparative analysis provides a resource that will assist States in identifying legal options to enhance public participation and inclusive fisheries governance.