DNA-based studies have been one of the major interests in conservation biology of endangered species and in population genetics. As species and population genetic assessment requires a source of biological material, the sampling strategy can be overcome by non-destructive procedures for DNA isolation. An improved method for obtaining DNA from fish fins and scales with the use of an extraction buffer containing urea and further DNA purification with phenol-chloroform is described. The methodology combines the benefits of a non-destructive DNA sampling and its high efficiency. In addition, comparisons with other methodologies for isolating DNA from fish demonstrated that the present procedure also becomes a very attractive alternative to obtain large amounts of high-quality DNA for use in different molecular analyses. The DNA samples, isolated from different fish species, have been successfully used on random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) experiments, as well as on amplification of specific ribosomal and mitochondrial DNA sequences. The present DNA extraction procedure represents an alternative for population approaches and genetic studies on rare or endangered taxa.