Our conservation roots run deep. In 1871, people recognized that America’s fisheries were in trouble and called on Congress to act. The United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries was formed on February 9, 1871. Their charge was clear - to determine if America’s fisheries were declining, and if so, to figure out how to protect them.
Fast forward 150 years. Our name has changed and so have the species we work with - it’s not just fish any longer - but one thing remains the foundation of all we do. We work to keep fish and other aquatic species safe, healthy, and productive for the American people.
Our Conservation Goals
- Conserve Aquatic Species
- Conserve, Restore, and Enhance Aquatic Habitats
- Manage Aquatic Invasive Species
- Fulfill Tribal Trust and Subsistence Responsibilities
- Enhance Recreational Fishing and Other Public Uses of Aquatic Resources
- Educate and Engage the Public and our Partners to Advance our Conservation Mission
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.
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.
In 1871, people recognized that America’s fisheries were in trouble and called on Congress to act. The United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries was formed on February 9, 1871, the first federal agency created to study and protect a natural resource. Spencer Fullerton Baird, a prominent research scientist with the Smithsonian Institution, was appointed the first U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries. But even before his appointment as Commissioner, Baird and other experts recognized the urgent need to understand the magnitude of declining fisheries and identify the factors that were contributing to their declines.
Responding to appeals from numerous sectors of the public, academia, and government, Congress charged the Commission with investigating and determining both the causes for declines in coastal and inland fisheries and “practicable methods that could be applied for their restoration.” The Commission was later charged with “supplementing declining native stocks of coastal and lake food fish through fish propagation.” These charges remain the conservation roots of our program today.
Conservation Efforts Today
From these original and somewhat daunting charges evolved the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program. Today we conserve threatened and endangered species, restore declining populations of native fish and aquatic species so they don't become endangered, mitigate the impacts of federal water projects to tribal and recreational fisheries for the public, and work with the states to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive and injurious species.
For 150 years, the Fish and Aquatic Conservation program of 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 the inception as the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, we have worked collaboratively with tribes, states, landowners, and partners to achieve the goals of healthy, self-sustaining populations of fish and other aquatic species. We work to ensure the health of our nation’s aquatic ecosystems and to enable everyone to enjoy the natural benefits they provide.