Coastal fish, also called offshore fish or neritic fish, inhabit the sea between the shoreline and the edge of the continental shelf. Since the continental shelf is usually less than 200 metres deep, it follows that pelagic coastal fish are generally epipelagic fish, inhabiting the sunlit epipelagic zone. Coastal fish can be contrasted with ocean fish or offshore fish, which inhabit the oceans beyond the continental shelves.
Coastal fish are the most abundant in the world. They can be found in tidal pools, fjords and estuaries, near sandy shores and rocky coastlines, around coral reefs and on or above the continental shelf. Coastal fish include forage fish and the predator fish that feed on them. Forage fish thrive in inshore waters where high productivity results from upwelling and shoreline run off of nutrients. Some are partial residents that spawn in streams, estuaries and bays, but most complete their life cycles in the zone.
Coastal fish are found in the waters above the continental shelves that extend from the continental shorelines, and around the coral reefs that surround volcanic islands. The total world shoreline extends for 356,000 km (221,000 mi) and the continental shelves occupy a total area of 24.286 million km (9 376 million sq mi). This is about 4.8% of the world's total area of 510.072 million km.