Cellular translation surveillance rescues ribosomes that stall on problematic mRNAs. During translation surveillance, endonucleolytic cleavage of the problematic mRNA is a critical step in rescuing stalled ribosomes. Here we identify NONU-1 as a factor required for translation surveillance pathways including no-go and nonstop mRNA decay. We show that (1) NONU-1 reduces nonstop and no-go mRNA levels; (2) NONU-1 contains an Smr RNase domain required for mRNA decay; (3) the domain architecture and catalytic residues of NONU-1 are conserved throughout metazoans and eukaryotes, respectively; and (4) NONU-1 is required for the formation of mRNA cleavage fragments in the vicinity of stalled ribosomes. We extend our results in C. elegans to homologous factors in S. cerevisiae, showing the evolutionarily conserved function of NONU-1. Our work establishes the identity of a factor critical to translation surveillance and will inform mechanistic studies at the intersection of translation and mRNA decay.