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

alewife_credit Chesapeake Bay Program_750x500.jpg River herring. Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program.
Alewife during their spring spawning migration in the Bagaduce River, Maine. Alewife during their spring spawning migration in the Bagaduce River, Maine. Credit: Tate Yoder/Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries


A white man in khaki and hip waders holds a large tube, through which salmon and water is shooting into a river. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee reintroduces salmon into a Central Valley river.
Flat floodplain with minimal vegetation Aerial view of restored floodplain habitat and agricultural property near Sacramento, California.
An aerial view of a small coastal community surrounded by water on all sides, accessed by a small road cutting through the water. Stump Point area in Hayes, Virginia, part of the Middle Peninsula, on a flyover with SouthWings. Credit: Scott Lerberg, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Virginia


Peer-Reviewed Research

Estimating Abundance of Fish Associated With Structured Habitats by Combining Acoustics and Optics

This acoustic–optical survey method provides data that are vital for the assessment of fish species…

Peer-Reviewed Research

Age, Growth, and Reproduction of the Yellow-Edged Lyretail Variola louti (Forssakal, 1775)

The first life history for the Variola genus and important biological information provided for…

Exempted Fishing Permit: Mote Marine Lab Red Grouper Full Retention Study

This study would assess the efficacy of an optimized retention management strategy in the eastern Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fish fishery with red grouper, Epinephelus morio, as the test species.

Peer-Reviewed Research

Influence of El Niño-Southern Oscillation on Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna Longline Catch per Unit Effort in the Equatorial Pacific

In this study, we investigate the statistical relationships between past ENSO conditions and…

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.