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:
Learn more about the ESA
Our work to conserve and recover endangered and threatened marine species includes:
Listing species under the ESA and designating critical habitat (section 4 of the ESA).
Developing protective regulations for threatened species (section 4).
Developing and implementing recovery plans for listed species (section 4).
Monitoring and evaluating the status of listed species (section 4).
Providing grants to states (section 6) and grants to tribes for species conservation.
Consulting on federal actions that may affect a listed species or its designated critical habitat to minimize possible adverse effects (section 7).
Entering bilateral and multilateral agreements with other nations to encourage conservation of listed species (section 8).
Investigating violations of the ESA (section 9).
Cooperating with non-federal partners to develop conservation plans, safe harbor agreements, and candidate conservation agreements with assurances for the long-term conservation of species (section 10).
Issuing permits that authorize scientific research to learn more about listed species, or activities that enhance the propagation or survival of listed species (section 10).
Designating experimental populations of listed species to further the conservation and recovery of those species (section 10).
Issuing determinations regarding the pre-listed or antique status of ESA species parts (section 10).
NOAA Fisheries has jurisdiction over 159 endangered and threatened marine species, including 65 foreign species.
Additional species are currently under review or have been proposed for ESA listing:
2 petitioned species awaiting 90-day findings.
11 candidate species for ESA listing.
5 proposed species for ESA listing.
Also, 37 species are considered species of concern. These are species about which we have concerns regarding their status and threats, but for which insufficient information is available to indicate a need to list them under 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.