The Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program is proud to announce completion of the 2021 annual report.
In 2021, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. From its inception in 1871 as the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, the Service has celebrated a long and proud history of working to conserve and protect the nation’s fish and aquatic resources. Over the 150-year history, the mission and profile of the Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program has evolved from a primary focus on restoring fish stocks for commercial harvest, to conserving, restoring, and enhancing fish and other aquatic resources for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Today we are expanding collaborative conservation of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors, supporting Tribally led conservation and restoration priorities, and increasing outdoor opportunities for nature- deprived communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of Americans looked to outdoor recreation and connections with nature, many of them turning or returning to recreational fishing in record numbers. An estimated 52 million people went fishing in 2021, according to a special report by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. These experiences were enhanced by our close collaboration with other federal agencies, Tribes, states, landowners, partners, and stakeholders.
As the challenges have increased so have our tools and expertise to restore habitat, prevent and control, help manage fish and wildlife resources, foster outdoor recreational opportunities, and connect the public to America’s great outdoors. The Service’s aquatic conservation work is led by a dedicated and highly skilled workforce of more than 1,200 permanent, term, and seasonal employees nationwide. America’s fisheries are among the world’s richest in abundance and diversity. Fish and Aquatic Conservation is building on the science, innovation, and creativity of its staff and programs as it addresses the current and future challenges of mitigating , preventing and managing invasive species, reconnecting waters, restoring habitats, and removing barriers to accessing nature.
The report tells the story of how we are conserving fish and other aquatic wildlife and restoring the freshwater habitats they rely on.
Restoring Our Rivers - Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices work on aquatic species and habitat conservation projects across the country. Staff biologists provide technical assistance to tribes and collaborate on fishery restoration efforts. They also conduct scientific studies into fishery problems, restore habitat, and coordinate conservation efforts with partners to conserve migratory fish that cross multiple jurisdictions. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation are some of the primary factors in the decline of native species, while threats from pollution and climate change are worsening water and habitat quality. To combat these threats, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices work with Tribes, states, and other partners to identify conservation goals restore aquatic habitat.
Hatching Success - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery System uses aquaculture to raise fish and aquatic species for successful release and survival in natural settings. Our mission is to restore and support wild populations of aquatic animals through responsible and effective conservation aquaculture and applied science.
Applying Science to Conservation Challenges - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program is advancing cutting-edge technologies across the country that will shape the future of aquatic conservation for years to come. Our national network of fish hatcheries, fish technology centers, fish health centers, fish and wildlife conservation offices, and the Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership use applied science and technology to steer our conservation practices.
Protecting Our Waters - Aquatic invasive species cause tremendous harm to our environment, our economy, and our health. They can drive out and eat native plants and wildlife, spread diseases, and damage infrastructure. We work to protect our waterways and the communities that depend on them from the threat of invasive species through partnerships, grants, and supporting the work of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.
Fulfilling Tribal Trust and Subsistence Responsibilities - Natural resource management programs operated by Tribes protect the spiritual, cultural, medicinal, subsistence, recreational, and economic needs of their communities. The Fish and Aquatic Conservation program is a shared steward with Tribes of many of these incredible natural and cultural resources.
Improving Access - Everyone deserves access to clean, safe, and local opportunities to connect with nature, and throughout the pandemic people sought these experiences in record numbers. Fish and Aquatic Conservation works to increase access to recreation by collaborating with industry, associations, and Friends Groups, as well as other federal agencies and state and Tribal governments.
- The Fish and Aquatic Conservation program provided over $59 million in financial assistance to restore and conserve aquatic resources.
- 71 hatcheries that make up the National Fish Hatchery System raised and stocked over 110 million fish to support recreational fishing, Tribal subsistence fisheries, and the recovery and restoration of imperiled species.
- 51 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices worked to monitor and control invasive species, protect imperiled species, evaluate native fish stocks and their habitats, and work with our partners to solve conservation problems.
- 6 Fish Health Centers worked on the front lines, preventing the spread of aquatic viruses, keeping our wild and hatchery fish healthy, and providing technical assistance to federal, state, and Tribal partners as well as to the private aquaculture industry.
- 7 Fish Technology Centers guided science and technology that is foundational to species and habitat conservation in the U.S. and develop new techniques to solve problems in hatchery operations and aquatic resource management.
- The Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership provided therapeutic treatments that benefited 9.5 million fish.
- The Aquatic Invasive Species Branch led a multi-agency effort with partners to address a zebra mussel outbreak in the aquarium trade industry, 46 states reported finding contaminated moss balls in stores.