||In this introductory paper we highlight key questions that were discussed during the symposium on “Status, functioning and shifts in marine ecosystems” organized by the Association Francaise d'Halieutique (French Association for Fisheries Sciences, Montpellier, France, July 2015). This symposium illustrated that fisheries science is now working at multiple scales and on all dimensions of socio-ecosystems (ecological, political, sociological, and economic), with a great diversity of approaches and taking into account different levels of complexity while acknowledging diverse sources of uncertainty. We argue that we should go one step further and call for a protean fisheries science to address the deteriorated states of aquatic ecosystems caused by anthropogenic pressures. Protean science is constantly evolving to meet emerging issues, while improving its coherence and integration capacity in its complexity. This science must be nourished by multiple approaches and be capable of addressing all organizational scales, from individual fish or fishermen up to the entire ecosystem, include society, its economy and the services it derives from aquatic systems. Such a protean science is required to address the complexity of ecosystem functioning and of the impacts of anthropogenic pressures.