Fish and Aquatic Conservation

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices (FWCOs) comprise a network of field stations located throughout the nation. Their staffs work with private landowners, tribal, local, and state governments, other federal agencies, and foreign nations to conserve fisheries. Work conducted by FWCOs represents an original charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dating to 1871.

Over 300 biologists in 51 offices in 34 states conserve fish and aquatic resources from the Arctic Circle to the Florida Keys. Biologists monitor and control invasive species; protect imperiled species; evaluate native fish stocks and their habitats; and prescribe remedial measures to fix problems. FWCO biologists render technical assistance to tribes; collaborate on fishery restoration with the National Fish Hatchery System; supervise subsistence use by rural Alaskans on federal lands; conduct scientific studies into fishery problems; restore habitat through the National Fish Passage Program and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan; and they collaborate with partners to conserve migratory fishes that cross multiple jurisdictions.

FWCOs employ scientists with diverse specialties in habitat modeling, hydrology, ecology, statistics, physiology, and fish biology. More habitat means more fish, and that is a guiding precept for FWCOs.


photo of a Niangua darter
The Niangua darter is a rare freshwater fish found only in central Missouri. Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Rare fish brings safe bridges to rural Missouri residents

July 2020 | By Jeff Finley

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work to conserve some of the rarest plants and animals in the country. The conservation effort to restore the Niangua darter, an endangered fish found only in central Missouri, has brought safer bridges to rural communities. The story of the Niangua darter demonstrates how the work of the Service’s National Fish Passage Program directly benefits the American public we serve.

The Niangua River winds northward through central Missouri, due south of the Lake of the Ozarks. Swimming along the bottom of the river lives a small fish, aptly named the Niangua darter.  Native to the north- flowing tributaries to the Osage River and found nowhere else in the world, the fish is listed as a federally threatened species and as state endangered by Missouri.

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Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

National Fish Passage Program