The world's fisheries and aquatic ecosystems are showing the strain of global trends toward greater production and more destructive fishing practices. Technological advances in the past few decades have increased efficiency - enabling the world's fishing fleet to maximize its catch and process it at sea. Unfortunately, the efficiency focus has been on increasing speed and volume - not on reducing collateral mortality of non-target marine organisms and destruction of marine habitats.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly 32% of world fish stocks are overexploited, depleted or recovering and in urgent need of rebuilding. Commercial fleets employ huge nets and other non-discriminate methods that sweep up unwanted flora and fauna along with the desired catch, obliterating seabed habitat in the process. Millions of non-target animals also die every year as bycatch - hauled up and thrown overboard, dead or mortally wounded. Air-breathing marine mammals and sea turtles are particularly vulnerable because they can quickly drown when trapped in fishing nets. Animals who manage to break free may still end up dragging a portion of the net with them, causing life-threatening injuries, interfering with behaviors necessary for survival, and making them vulnerable to predators.

Some of the most destructive fishing methods include the use of driftnets, longlines, trawls, explosives, and purse seines. Practices such as shark finning, where the fins of sharks are sliced off and the body of the shark discarded, are particularly destructive, as well, not to mention horrifically cruel.