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.
Our scientists conduct various field studies and surveys to estimate fishery populations, better understand marine life, and track ecosystem conditions off California, Oregon, and Washington.
We investigate the effects of climate on fisheries and protected species in the California Current to understand their ecology better and inform management.
During the Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic-Trawl Survey, scientists and collaborators collect data on other fish, zooplankton, seabirds and marine mammals, enabling a better understanding of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem.
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.