Fish and Aquatic Conservation

About Us

Information iconSupporting aquatic conservation and recreation, means passing along a conservation legacy. (Photo: Take Me Fishing)

The Fish and Aquatic Conservation (FAC) program has 135 offices and hatcheries from Alaska to Florida. This includes 70 National Fish Hatcheries, 51 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices, 7 Fish Technology Centers, 6 Fish Health Centers, 1 Historic National Fish Hatchery. More than 700 employees work at these sites to carry out the many jobs of the FAC program.

We focus our work on geographic areas and species with the greatest needs. Through biological inventories, assessments, modeling, and conservation strategies we worked with partners to better understand and alleviate threats to aquatic resources by propagating fish and other aquatic species to enhance wild populations, by strategically improving habitat, and restoring the connectivity of the Nation’s waterways, and preventing new infestations of aquatic invasive species. 



We work with our partners and engage the public, using a science-based approach, to conserve, restore and enhance fish and other aquatic resources for the continuing benefit of the American people.

As reflected in this mission statement, conservation is at the forefront of the reason we exist. From the very beginning of the Fish and Wildlife Service, this responsibility has been preeminent. In fact, our very first assignment was “…to ascertain whether any and what diminution in the number of food fishes of the coast and inland lakes has occurred.” We also are acutely aware of the need to involve stakeholders and partners in our mission if we are going to succeed. And, perhaps most important, we recognize that we do this work for the American people–both the present generation who benefit today and future generations to whom we will pass the legacy of conserving America’s aquatic resources.


While our mission addresses the work we do every day, we also aspire to move in a positive direction in the future. Mindful of our commitment to work with others while recognizing there is a special need and role for national leadership:

The Fish and Aquatic Conservation program will be a national leader in achieving sustainable populations of fish and other aquatic species and conserving and restoring their habitats for the benefit of current and future generations.

Core Goals

  1. Conserve Aquatic Species
  2. Conserve, Restore, and Enhance Aquatic Habitats
  3. Manage Aquatic Invasive Species
  4. Fulfill Tribal Trust and Subsistence Responsibilities
  5. Enhance Recreational Fishing and Other Public Uses of Aquatic Resources
  6. Increase Staffing Levels, Technical Capabilities, and Natural and Physical Assets to Fully Meet Our Mission
  7. Educate and Engage the Public and our Partners to Advance our Conservation Mission


Spencer Fullerton Baird.
Photo Credit: NOAA

In 1871, the U.S. Department of State fostered the establishment of the Commission of Fish and Fisheries for the following reasons:

  • a growing concern over the observed decline in the Nation’s fishery resources

  • a lack of information concerning the status of the Nation’s fisheries

  • a need to define and protect U.S. fishing rights

Spencer Fullerton Baird, a prominent research scientist, was appointed the first U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries. Baird had previously been serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution since 1850.

Before his appointment as Fish Commissioner, Baird had already recognized the urgent need to assemble the necessary information to help analyze the magnitude of declining fisheries and identify the factors which were contributing to the decrease in fish populations.

Consequently, it is not surprising that the first national funding for fisheries conservation occurred one year before the establishment of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.

Commissioner Baird’s primary duty, as directed by the President and the Senate, was to “ascertain whether any and what diminution in the number of food fishes of the coast and inland lakes has occurred.” He was also required to report to Congress the necessary remedial measures to be adopted and was authorized to take fish from lakes and coastal waters, regardless of any state law.

In 1872, the Senate and the House charged the Fisheries Commission with an additional task of “supplementing declining native stocks of coastal and lake food fish through fish propagation.”

For over 140 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been a partner on the American landscape in the conservation and restoration of our nation’s aquatic resources. Since its inception as the United States Commission on Fish and Fisheries, the Service has worked collaboratively with tribes, states, landowners, partners and stakeholders to achieve the goals of healthy, self-sustaining populations of fish and other aquatic species and the conservation or restoration of their habitats. The Service conducts this work to ensure the health of our nation’s aquatic ecosystems and to enable Americans to realize the ecological, recreational and economic benefits provided by these critically important resources.