Valid fish species identification is an essential step both for fundamental science and fisheries management. The traditional identification is mainly based on external morphological diagnostic characters, leading to inconsistent results in many cases. Here, we provide a sequence reference library based on mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) for a valid identification of 93 North Atlantic fish species originating from the North Sea and adjacent waters, including many commercially exploited species. Neighbour-joining analysis based on K2P genetic distances formed nonoverlapping clusters for all species with a ≥99% bootstrap support each. Identification was successful for 100% of the species as the minimum genetic distance to the nearest neighbour always exceeded the maximum intraspecific distance. A barcoding gap was apparent for the whole data set. Within-species distances ranged from 0 to 2.35%, while interspecific distances varied between 3.15 and 28.09%. Distances between congeners were on average 51-fold higher than those within species. The validation of the sequence library by applying BOLDs barcode index number (BIN) analysis tool and a ranking system demonstrated high taxonomic reliability of the DNA barcodes for 85% of the investigated fish species. Thus, the sequence library presented here can be confidently used as a benchmark for identification of at least two-thirds of the typical fish species recorded for the North Sea.