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Fish Habitat—Habitat of the Month

More than 3,000 species of fish inhabit America's rivers, marshes, coral reefs, seagrass beds, deep ocean canyons, and other watery habitats. Healthy coastal and marine habitat is critical to rebuilding and sustaining our nation's fisheries. Just like humans need clean air and water, fish need healthy surroundings to survive, grow, and reproduce.

Fish habitat includes physical factors, such as temperature and bottom type, as well as chemical factors, such as oxygen levels and dissolved minerals. The habitat requirements for each stage of a fish's life cycle—egg, larvae, juvenile, and adult—might vary within the same water body.

What’s the Problem

One of the greatest long-term threats to commercial and recreational fisheries is the loss of marine, estuarine, and other aquatic habitats. Other fish habitats have been harmed to the point where fish populations cannot recover without our help. Impacts from certain fishing practices, as well as coastal development, threaten to alter, damage, or destroy these habitats.

Why We Care

Healthy fish habitat and thriving fish populations are vital to our well-being. They provide us with food, recreation, and jobs—

  • We eat nearly 16 pounds of seafood per person a year.
  • We boast 12 million saltwater anglers who take approximately 85 million fishing trips annually.
  • Our commercial and recreational fishing activities generate $163 billion in sales in the United States and nearly 1.9 million jobs.

Habitat Conservation

Managing fish habitat involves intensive studies to answer important questions about the relationship between fish and their habitat. NOAA Fisheries works with regional fishery management councils and state and local partners to conserve habitat. We identify essential fish habitat for every life stage of federally managed species using the best available scientific information. We also consult with federal agencies on how to avoid or minimize the impacts of their actions on the fish habitat. In addition, NOAA’s Restoration Center has more than 2,000 restoration projects around the country restoring more than 70,000 acres of habitat.

In partnership with the National Fish Habitat Board, we’ve helped to document some of the challenges facing America’s aquatic resources in a new report, Through A Fish’s Eye: Status of Fish Habitats in the United States, 2010.