Highly Migratory Species

Highly migratory fish travel long distances and often cross domestic and international boundaries. These pelagic species live in the water of the open ocean, although they may spend part of their life cycle in nearshore waters. Highly migratory species managed by NOAA Fisheries include tunas, some sharks, swordfish, billfish, and other highly sought-after fish such as Pacific mahi mahi.

These highly migratory species are targeted by U.S. commercial and recreational fishermen and by foreign fishing fleets. Because they migrate long distances and live primarily in the open ocean, only a small fraction of the total harvest of these species is taken within U.S. waters.

In the United States, NOAA Fisheries sustainably manages highly migratory species under the Magnuson-Stevens Act in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans:

Responsible management also requires international cooperation through a number of agreements and regional fishery management organizations (or RFMOs) including the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna, Commission on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Species News

The six ways fishermen help keep the U.S. shark fishery sustainable. The six ways fishermen help keep the U.S. shark fishery sustainable. Credit: NOAA Fisheries
Overhead photo of researchers tagging a swordfish off the bow of a boat Tagging of swordfish off Southern California funded by NOAA Fisheries found that they spend daytime hours an average of almost 900 feet below the surface, where few other fish species venture. Deep-set buoy gear rapidly sinks bait to those depths where it catches swordfish and little else. Credit: Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research


Fisheries Ecology in the Northeast

We study fisheries ecology: the relationship between important marine life and their environment. Our goal is to support sustainable wild and farmed fisheries on the Northeast shelf to create opportunities and benefits for the economy and ecosystem.

Southwest Fisheries Science Center Stock Assessments

Population assessments are a key component of marine resource management. These assessments allow us to evaluate and report the status of managed fisheries, marine mammals, and endangered/threatened species under the authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens…

Fishery Monitoring for West Coast and International Fisheries

Staff in the highly migratory species Fisheries Monitoring Program collaborate with partners at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Regional Office, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state fisheries agencies of California, Oregon, and Washington,…

Population Dynamics of Coastal Pelagic and Highly Migratory Species in the North Pacific

The Fish Population Dynamics and Modeling Program conducts analyses in support of the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Fishery Management Plans for coastal pelagic species and highly migratory species. We also conduct analyses in support of U.S…


International Collaboration

Fish and other marine animals travel beyond national boundaries.