Commercial fishing is the activity of catching fish and other seafood for commercial profit, mostly from wild fisheries. It provides a large quantity of food to many countries around the world, but those who practice it as an industry must often pursue fish far into the ocean under adverse conditions. Large-scale commercial fishing is also known as industrial fishing. This profession has gained in popularity with the development of shows such as Deadliest Catch, Swords, and Wicked Tuna. The major fishing industries are not only owned by major corporations but by small families as well. The industry has had to adapt through the years in order to keep earning a profit. A study taken on some small family-owned commercial fishing companies showed that they adapted to continue to earn a living but not necessarily make a large profit. It is the adaptability of the fishermen and their methods that cause some concern for fishery managers and researchers; they say that for those reasons, the sustainability of the marine ecosystems could be in danger of being ruined.
According to the FAO, there are currently (2004) four million commercial fishing vessels. About 1.3 million of these are decked vessels with enclosed areas. Nearly all of these decked vessels are mechanised, and 40,000 of them are over 100 tons. At the other extreme, two-thirds (1.8 million) of the undecked boats are traditional craft of various types, powered only by sail and oars. These boats are used by artisan fishers.
It is difficult to estimate the number of recreational fishing boats. They range in size from small dingies to large charter cruisers, and unlike commercial fishing vessels, are often not dedicated just to fishing.
Prior to the 1950s there was little standardisation of fishing boats. Designs could vary between ports and boatyards. Traditionally boats were built of wood, but wood is not often used now because it has higher maintenance costs and lower durability. Fibreglass is used increasingly in smaller fishing vessels up to 25 metres (100 tons), while steel is usually used on vessels above 25 metres.