Fish & Sharks

Fish are extremely diverse animals living in a variety of habitats ranging from coral reefs and kelp forests to rivers, streams, and the open ocean. Most fish can be categorized into one of two primary groups: bony fish (Osteichthyes) and cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes). The skeleton of bony fish is made of bones, while that of cartilaginous fish is made of cartilage. Cartilaginous fish include sharks, skates, and rays.

Most fish under NOAA Fisheries’ jurisdiction are marine fish that spend their entire life in salt water. Others are anadromous—like some species of salmon and sturgeon—which begin their lives in freshwater, migrate to the ocean to grow into adults, and then return to freshwater to spawn.

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the sustainable management of many species of fish under the Magnuson-Stevens Act that are targeted for human consumption and other uses like fertilizer. Some of these fish include Pacific bluefin tuna, Alaska pollock, and summer flounder. We are also responsible for protecting fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act like Atlantic sturgeon and oceanic whitetip shark.

Species News

Photo of a Pacific cod in a rearing tank. Pacific cod, seen here in a rearing tank at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Newport, Oregon lab, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, support a valuable Alaska Fishery. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.
Aerial view of before and after photo of the original nature-like fishway at Cape Fear Lock and Dam Number 1 (2013) and modified nature-like fishway. (2021) Aerial view of the original nature-like fishway at Cape Fear Lock and Dam Number 1 in 2013, and the modified nature-like fishway in 2021. The red lines indicate the rock arches constructed below the crest of the dam structure. The red circles indicate the staggered pools which form three pathways through the fishway. Credit: U.S. Army Corps and Cape Fear River Watch.
Person on a boat wearing a Return Em Right tee shirt Return 'Em Right provides support and resources to anglers committed to using best release practices and helping reef fish survive release. Credit: Return 'Em Right.


Peer-Reviewed Research

An Assessment of Sampling Approaches for Estimating Growth From Fishery-Dependent Biological Samples

We test the suitability of otolith sampling approaches for fisheries age and growth studies. 

Oceanography of the Northern California Current Study Area

The oceanography of the Northern California Current regional ecosystem.

Ocean Indicators Project Introduction

An introduction to the ocean ecosystem indicators of Pacific salmon marine survival project.


Understanding Fisheries Management in the United States

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for managing marine fisheries within the U.S. exclusive economic zone. Learn more about the sustainable management of our marine fisheries.