The original award-winning NEFSC FishFAQ, created in 1993, has been archived.
For current information, please see our new FAQ.


A bouillabaisse of
fascinating facts about fish
(and other marine life)

Miscellaneous Fish

Q: What species do you study at the NEFSC?
How long have you been studying fish?
Is life found at all depths in the ocean?
Q: How many fish species are there?
Q: Which is the oldest fish, as a class?
Q: What is the world's largest fish? The smallest?
Q: What is the most common fish in the sea?
Q: Do fish sleep?

Q: What is an anadromous fish? A catadromous fish?
Q: Why do scientists classify fish?
Q: How is the age of a fish determined?
Q: How long do fish live?
Q: Do some fish give birth to living young?

Q: Do fish breathe air?
Q: How do fish swim? How fast?
Q: Can fish swim backwards?

Q: Do all fish swim in the horizontal position?
Q: Do fish chew their food?
Q: Are all fish edible?
Q: How can poisonous fish be distinguished from edible ones?
Q: Are there any poisonous snails?
Q: Are any snails commercially caught for food off the coasts of the United States?

What is the FishFAQ?

The National Marine Fisheries Service (Now NOAA Fisheries Service) annually answers thousands of questions about the oceans and the life that thrives within them. On the basis of a canvass of experienced marine scientists in the Fisheries Service done in 1973, more than a hundred questions have been chosen as most representative. These are the Most Frequently Asked Questions containing some fascinating facts about fish.

These were the first pages NEFSC made available on the web back in '93. Enjoy!

fishing troller
animated bubbles


Photo from NOAA Ship Delaware archives
ewwww what is it????
(See the bottom of this page for the answer)

fish Q: Why do food fish sometimes have a strong odor?
Q: Is there much salt in fish?
Q: What is the blood-like material found along the backbone in the body cavity of most fishes?
Q: What is the true description of a sardine?
Q: How many kinds of tuna are there,
    which kind makes up the biggest catch?

Q: Do tunas have scales?
Q: Are saltwater catfish good to eat?
Q: What is the fish listed as "scrod" in New England restaurants?
Q: What are menhaden?
Q: Where are Atlantic menhaden spawned,
    where do they go after hatching?
Q: What do herring eat?

Q: Are the eyes of flatfishes on the right or left side?
Q: Has any kind of marine or ocean dwelling fish been successfully transplanted from coast to coast in the United States?
Q: How large do ocean sunfish get?
Q: How do porcupine fish inflate themselves?
Q: What is an "exotic" fish?
Q: What fishes are named after other animals?
Q: What kind of fish is a "Bombay Duck"?
Q: How much electricity does an electric eel generate?

Q: What are moray eels and where are they found?

Q: What is pearl essence?
Q: What is the sand collar that one often sees on beaches at low tide?
Q: What is chitin?
Q: What are some confusing fish names?
Q: Why is fishing sometimes called angling?

Q: What is the biggest bivalve mollusk, cephalopod mollusk, and crustacean known to man?

Q: Will fish I catch and release die anyway?
Q: What are factory ships?
Q: Where can I find out about maintaining aquariums?
Q: What is the largest Largest sturgeon on record?

Q:Where can I learn more about endangered species?
Q:What exactly is Persistent Marine Debris, and why is it important?
Q:Are there any good field guides to marine mammals available?

Salmon FAQs

salmon Q: How many species of Pacific salmon are there?
Q: Is it true that salmon return to spawn in freshwater areas where they were born?
Q: what is the difference between the Atlantic salmon and the Pacific salmon?
Q: Are steelhead (rainbow trout) trout or salmon? Q: Where do salmon go in the ocean?

Q: What is a kokanee, or silver trout?
Q: Do landlocked Pacific salmon die after spawning?
Q: How large do salmon get?
Q: What is the oldest known age of salmon and steelhead (in completed years)?

Q: Is a steelhead a salmon or a trout?
Q: How old are salmon when they migrate from fresh water to the ocean?
Q: How many eggs do salmon have?
Q: What are salmon fed in a hatchery?
Q: How many of the young salmon released from hatcheries come back as adults?
Q: Why are fishladders constructed
Lobster FAQs

lobster artwork by edgar k
Artwork by Edgar K.
Q: How many kinds of lobsters are there in this country,
     why are different varieties called lobster?
Q: Does the deepwater northern lobster population differ from that found just off the coast?
Q: How far do lobsters travel?
Q: What color is a lobster's blood?
Q: What is "tomalley"?
Q: What is the coral colored material often seen in a cooked lobster?
Q: How does a lobster grow?

Q: How many times must a lobster molt before it reaches market size?

Q: How old is a one-pound lobster?
Q: How many one-pound lobsters are needed for a pound of lobster meat?
Q: How long can a lobster live out of water?
Q: Can a lobster be kept alive in fresh water with ice?
Q: Why does a lobster turn red when cooked?

Q: How can one tell if a boiled lobster was alive when cooked?
Q: Have people been poisoned by eatlng lobsters that were allowed to die before being cooked?
    Is it true that a dead lobster deteriorates very rapidly?
    What happens when a live lobster is frozen?

Q: Is it possible to raise lobsters on a commercial basis?

Q: What are some other names for lobsters?
Q: Where are lobsters caught?
Q: What do lobsters eat?
Q: How is the health of the lobster resource?
Q: Where do lobsters live?
Q: When do lobsters mate?

Q: Are lobsters different colors?

Q: Can lobsters grow new legs?
Q: Do lobsters have teeth?
Q: Can lobsters smell their food?
Q: Do lobsters lay eggs?
Q: Do many young lobsters survive to old age?
Q: What is the largest lobster ever caught?

Q: If a lobster gets in the trap first does it chase crabs out?
Q: Have Maine lobsters been successfully transplanted to the west coast?
Q: I've heard that lobsters molt, but I've never seen a cast-off shell. Why?

Crab FAQs

crab crab crab crab crab
Q: Can crabs swim?
Q: How do crabs grow?
Q: How much does a blue crab increase in size on molting?
Q: What is the difference between soft and hard shell crabs?
Q: How old does a blue crab get?
Q: What is a "coconut crab"? Where do they live?
Q: Is a stone crab harmed when its large claw is broken off?
Q: What are the small crabs found inside oysters?
    Are they harmful to oysters?
     May humans eat them?

Shark FAQs

great white shark image
1,700 lb. Great White Shark - Woods Hole, MA - 2004

Q: Can shark meat be used as food for humans?
    Is it true that the meat of the hammerhead shark is poisonous?
Q: Is the blue shark really blue?
Q: What attracts sharks? Which are most dangeous?
Q: What sea creatures other than sharks may be dangerous to swimmers?
Q: Do sharks have bones?
Q: Do sharks have good eyesight?
Q: Are sharks always hungry?
Q: Are sharks considered to be a fish?
Q: Do sharks only eat meat?
Q: How many senses do sharks have?
A: Visit our Apex Predators page for more shark information...
Q: If sharks have cartilage instead of bones how can they fossilize?

Shrimp FAQs

shrimp shrimp shrimp
Q: How do prawns, crayfish, and shrimp differ?
Q: Is there more than one kind of shrimp?
Q: How big do shrimp grow?
Q: How long do shrimp live?
Q: How many eggs does a shrimp produce in one spawning?
Q: How much shrimp is produced in the United States,
    where is the largest catch taken?
Q: What are the commercially important shrimp on the east coast of the United States,
    what are their ranges?

Shellfish FAQs

scallop scallop scallop scallop scallop
Q: What do oysters and clams eat?
Q: Clams seem to squirt water through their siphons. What purpose does the siphon serve?
Q: What causes a reddish color in the liquor of shucked oysters and clams?

Q: How does the consumer know that shellfish are safe to eat?
Q: How does a clam shell grow?
Q: How do clams establish themselves on the sea bottom?
Q: How do clams reproduce?
Q: Which of the clam species is of greatest commerical importance to the United States,
    where is it fished,
    what quantites are landed?

Q: How are soft-shell clams harvested?

Q: How are scallops caught?
Q: What is the biggest clam caught and eaten in the United States?
Q: What are oyster borers?
Q: How do oysters produce pearls?
Q: What is oyster spat?

Q: Is it safe to eat oysters during the months without R's?

Q: How does a scallop move?
Q: What purpose do the holes along the edge of an abalone shell serve?
Q: How unsafe are shellfish from polluted waters?
Q: Will cooking make sewage-polluted shellfish safe to eat?
Q: Is it possible to purify shellfish from sewage polluted water for safe eating?
Q: Do shellfish contain mercury levels dangerous to man's health?

Cetacean FAQs

right whale Q: What is a cetacean?
Q: How many species of cetaceans in U.S. waters are protected?
Q: How big is a Blue Whale?
Q: What does a Bowhead Whale eat?
Q: What is the 2nd largest whale?
Q: Which whale would I most likely see whale watching?
Q: What makes the right whale right?
Q: Do any whales have teeth?

Q: What do whales eat?
Q:How many young does a whale give birth to at one time?
Q:What are the main threats to whales these days?
Q:Where do harbor porpoise live?

Pinniped FAQs


Q:What are Pinnipeds?
Q:How many Pinnipeds are on the Endangered Species List?
Q:Are Hawaiian monk seals coming back?
Q:How many Caribbean monk seals are left?
Q:How are Steller Sea Lions doing?

Answer: If you guessed that "ewwww what is it" photo is a
Monkfish (or Goosefish) (mouth and eyes) you are right!

See the whole picture here

OK, click and guess what this is!

Turtle FAQs

Q: What is is the rarest of all sea turtles?
Q: Do turtles get stranded like whales?
Q:How long can sea turtles stay underwater?
Q:Where do sea turtles breed?
Q:Are sea turtles endangered?
Q:Where does the green sea turtle live?
Q:What is the major cause of the continued decline of of the hawksbill sea turtle?
What is the largest sea turtle?
Q:What is a Turtle Excluder Device (TED)?


Taken in part from the document - US Govt.
Printing office 1985-461-100-227/20002

Unless otherwise noted all color artwork is
Ray Troll 2002, Terry Pyles, colorization 2002.

These images may not be utilized in whole or in part
by any entity other than NMFS
without the express permission of
NMFS' Office of Constituent Services and the
copyright artist, Ray Troll.
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(File Modified Aug. 25 2017)

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