Aquatic ecosystems, inland, coastal and marine, provide humans with resources for recreation, food and livelihood. They also perform many other important environmental functions, e.g. in relation to meteorological events, pollution etc., contributing to general human well-being. They are used by both capture fisheries and aquaculture as well as other competing sectors. Achieving sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems has been the main and largely failed objective of fisheries management for decades. The formally adopted Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) imposes further efforts in that direction, implying better understanding and better governance.
The exploited ecosystem is unavoidably affected by fishery activities. Wild or ranched stocks and other organisms affect each other e.g. through predator-prey relationships or transfer of diseases. The impact of capture or culture on the resource, the associated and dependent species, the habitat, the bottom and the benthic flora and fauna can be particularly severe and longlasting. It is also vulnerable to degradation and pollution imposed by other industries, with long-lasting or irreversible effects, including on the production of fisheries, seafood quality and fishers' livelihood.