Sea turtle floating over coral reef.

Endangered Species Conservation

Endangered Species Conservation

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the protection, conservation, and recovery of endangered and threatened marine and anadromous species under the Endangered Species Act. The ESA aims to conserve these species and the ecosystems they depend on. To implement the ESA, we work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations and private citizens.

Under the ESA, a species is considered:

  • Endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
  • Threatened if it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

Learn more about the ESA

Our Work Under the ESA

Our work to conserve and recover endangered and threatened marine species includes:

ESA By the Numbers

NOAA Fisheries has jurisdiction over 161 endangered and threatened marine species, including 65 foreign species.

Additional species are currently under review or have been proposed for ESA listing:



There are currently no open rules.


There are currently no open opportunities.

NOAA Fisheries and U.S. FWS share responsibility for administering the ESA

Generally, NOAA Fisheries manages marine species and anadromous species (fish that are born in freshwater, spend most of their lives in saltwater, and return to freshwater to spawn) including whales, corals, sea turtles, and salmon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages land and freshwater species such as polar bears, sea otters, and manatees.

Both U.S. species and foreign species are protected under the ESA

The Endangered Species Act requires listing of species regardless of where they are found. Endangered foreign species include the vaquita porpoise, Mediterranean monk seal, and Southern right whale.

Show me another fact

Listing Species Under the ESA

Before an animal or plant species can receive ESA protections, it must first be added to the federal lists of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants. Once NOAA Fisheries determines that a species warrants listing, it adds the species to its lists at 50 CFR 223.102 (threatened species) and 50 CFR 224.101 (endangered species). All plant and animal species, except pest insects, are eligible for listing.

Learn more about species listing under the ESA

Monitoring Species Status

The conservation status of all species listed under the ESA must be reviewed at least once every 5 years. The review evaluates whether the endangered or threatened classification is still appropriate for the species. These 5-year reviews consider recent recovery progress and the level and impact of ongoing and new or future threats. They also incorporate any new information about the species.

Learn more about 5-year reviews

Designating Critical Habitat

One of the main purposes of the ESA is to provide a means for conserving the ecosystems that threatened and endangered species depend upon for survival and recovery. Areas that are determined to be essential, or that contain features that are essential, for the conservation of an ESA-listed species may be designated as “critical habitat.” Once critical habitat is designated, federal agencies consult with NOAA Fisheries to ensure their actions in these areas are not likely to destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat. Critical habitat does not affect land ownership or set up a refuge or closed area, and it does not restrict private citizens’ use of the area. Critical habitat also does not mandate government or public access to private lands.

Learn more about critical habitat

Recovering Endangered and Threatened Species

Recovery is the process of restoring listed species and their ecosystems to the point where they no longer require ESA protections. To guide efforst to bring these species back to health, we develop recovery plans that outline the path and activities required to restore and secure self-sustaining wild populations. We collaborate with federal, state, and local governments, as well as tribal nations and interested nongovernmental stakeholders, to create these plans.

Learn more  about species recovery

Our Partners

Conservation groups; academia; tribal nations; and federal, state, and local governments have all made important contributions to the recovery of many endangered and threatened species. We partner with these organizations in many ways to minimize harmful effects on listed species and work toward their recovery.

Learn more about our partners

ESA Regulations, Policies, and Guidance

We have issued regulations, national policies, and guidance to promote efficiency and consistency in implementing the ESA to conserve and recover marine species.

Learn more about ESA regulations and policies


Learn how NOAA Fisheries works with partners to protect and recover endangered and threatened marine species.

Hawaiian monk seal