This study identifies the capabilities needed by small-scale fishers to participate in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) for yellowfin tuna in the Philippines. The current literature provides little empirical evidence on how different models, or types of FIPs, influence the participation of fishers in their programs and the degree which FIPs are able to foster improvements in fishing practices. To address this literature gap, two different FIPs are empirically analysed, each with different approaches for fostering improvement. The first is the non-governmental organisation-led Partnership Programme Towards Sustainable Tuna, which adopts a bottom-up or development oriented FIP model. The second is the private-led Artesmar FIP, which adopts a top-down or market-oriented FIP approach. The data were obtained from 350 fishers surveyed and were analysed using two separate models run in succession, taking into consideration full, partial, and non-participation in the two FIPs. The results demonstrate that different types of capabilities are required in order to participate in different FIP models. Individual firm capabilities are more important for fishers participation in market-oriented FIPs, which use direct economic incentives to encourage improvements in fisher practices. Collective capabilities are more important for fishers to participate in development-oriented FIPs, which drive improvement by supporting fishers, fisher associations, and governments to move towards market requirements.