Islands offer unique model systems for studying fisheries development in relation to the growing global seafood trade. This study examines how export-driven fisheries in India's oceanic islands (Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands) differ significantly as a result of their varied history, culture, available infrastructure and market access. Despite being geographically closer to export centres on the Indian mainland, processing and transport infrastructure in the Lakshadweep Islands are limited. This only allows for the trade of non-perishable commodities like dried tuna that are caught using traditional pole-and-line fishing techniques, restricting reef exploitation to local preference-based consumption and opportunistic export. The Andaman Islands, on the other hand, with multiple daily flight connections and large private and government processing facilities, are better connected to export markets. The relatively recent and multicultural fisheries of these islands supply marine commodity chains for reef fishery goods such as dried shark fins, frozen snapper fillets and chilled groupers. The Nicobar Islands are furthest away from mainland export centres and are mostly populated by indigenous communities – fishing here is mostly for subsistence and local sale. Revised estimates of travel times to export market centres are counterintuitive in terms of geographical distances and are significantly different from travel times to local markets.