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

A fisher smiles while holding up a red and white fish, called an onaga, with both hands while out at sea. A local cooperative research fisherman holds an onaga caught during the annual Bottomfish Fishery-Independent Survey. Credit: Pacific Islands Fisheries Group
fishing boat with mountain in background and purple loosestrife in foreground Fishing vessel, Araho, leaving port in Alaska to begin collaborative industry-government survey in Alaska. Credit: Rory Morgan
View of a partially cleared forest. A new habitat conservation plan covers about 30,000 acres of private forest in northwest Oregon. The HCP allows owner Port Blakely to harvest timber while benefiting species in the long-term. Credit: Port Blakely
Aerial view of a wetland preserve with ponds, trails, and mangroves Aerial view of the Robinson Preserve habitat restoration project. Credit: Manatee County and E.T. MacKenzie, Inc.


Commercial fishing in the Valdez, Alaska harbor. Commercial fishing in the Valdez, Alaska harbor.
Releasing a sandbar shark on a shark survey. Releasing a sandbar shark on a shark survey.


Gulf of Maine Bottom Longline Survey

Our Gulf of Maine Bottom Longline Survey collects data on species that prefer rocky habitats—a habitat not efficiently sampled with trawl gear used in bottom trawl surveys

Cooperative Research in the Northeast

Our Cooperative Research Branch engages the fishing community to answer science questions and improve management of the region’s fisheries.

Peer-Reviewed Research

Discard Mortality of Red Snapper Released with Descender Devices in the U.S. South Atlantic

Increased use of descender devices will reduce discard mortality for Red Snapper, enhancing efforts…

Peer-Reviewed Research

Governance and Science Implementation in Fisheries Management in Japan As It Compares to the United States

We compare the Japanese and U.S. approaches to fisheries management in four areas.

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.