Highly Migratory Species

Highly migratory fish travel long distances and often cross domestic and international boundaries. These pelagic species live in the water of the open ocean, although they may spend part of their life cycle in nearshore waters. Highly migratory species managed by NOAA Fisheries include tunas, some sharks, swordfish, billfish, and other highly sought-after fish such as Pacific mahi mahi.

These highly migratory species are targeted by U.S. commercial and recreational fishermen and by foreign fishing fleets. Because they migrate long distances and live primarily in the open ocean, only a small fraction of the total harvest of these species is taken within U.S. waters.

In the United States, NOAA Fisheries sustainably manages highly migratory species under the Magnuson-Stevens Act in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans:

Responsible management also requires international cooperation through a number of agreements and regional fishery management organizations (or RFMOs) including the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, Commission on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Species News

Heat map showing variations in size of the Bering Sea cold pool in 2010, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Bering Sea cold pool, a bottom water mass that is < 0-2o C resulting when winter sea ice recedes affects fish movement. Warmer water temperatures and reduced sea ice in recent years resulted in shrinkage of the cold pool. Figure: NOAA Fisheries.


Southwest Fisheries Science Center Stock Assessment

Population assessments are a key component of marine resource management. These assessments allow us to evaluate and report the status of managed fisheries, marine mammals, and endangered/threatened species under the authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens…

Feature Story

Study Shows Pollock Stocks are Mixing More Due to Changing Ocean Conditions and Weather Patterns

New research confirms movement of adult and young pollock between Russian and U.S. waters. Scientists from the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Research's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries…

Feature Story

Meet the Fishermen Involved in Cooperative Research

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center works with our region’s commercial fishing community to collect data that help us better understand ocean ecosystems and improve fisheries management. Their partnership is critical to the future of sustainable…

Peer-Reviewed Research

Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Research Team Publications

Publications related to the research by the Atlantic Salmon Ecosystem Research Team in support of…


International Collaboration

Fish and other marine animals travel beyond national boundaries.



22 species match your filter criteria.