MARINE BIODIVERSITY The virtual encyclopaedia of fish
With 29 200 species, more than 211 200 common names in ten languages, almost 41 000 photos, references to over 37 500 scientific articles, 1 300 collaborators and 23 million hits a month, FishBase is unique. Created with the support of the European Union and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Fishbase is the biggest ichthyological virtual library in the world. It can be used by anybody – fishing professionals, scientists or the merely curious – seeking to find out more about the characteristics and biodiversity of fish resources in all the seas and oceans on the planet.
Anybody can use the FishBase site. Just type in the word 'Cod', for example, and you will learn that this fish, which has many common names, is the species Gadus morhua, the adult male of which can reach two metres in length and weigh almost 100 kilograms. Depending on the waters, the cycle for the renewal of fish shoals varies from just over a year to almost four and a half years. The species is particularly abundant in the North Atlantic, but recent years have seen a marked decline in populations close to Greenland and Newfoundland.
With just a few clicks, you can discover a great deal more about the cod or the tens of thousands of other fish species listed in this huge database. It provides key figures on the genetic heritage of fish, tracks developments in their geographical distribution and provides details of threats of stock depletion and protective measures to prevent this happening. One of the FishBase objectives is to help all the fishery sector players - politicians, industrialists, fishery sector employers, etc. - to manage these valuable oceanic resources in the interests of sustainability. Another aim is to offer marine science researchers a rapid overview of our knowledge of species and details of scientific articles and current studies.
Fishbase is the culmination of long and patient efforts supported by the FAO and the European Union - in particular in the context of international co-operation between the EU and ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries - that supported the project from start to finish. The initial impetus came from two marine biologists, Daniel Apuly and Rainer Froese, in the late 1980s. As experts on tropical fish species, they were working at Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) in the Philippines (1) at the time. Frustrated at the 'jungle' of disparate data so characteristic of their discipline, these researchers wanted to see a computerised classification of the available knowledge developed. With the backing of the European Union and United Nations, their efforts attracted growing interest as the need for sustainable development - which is particularly pertinent for the oceanic bio-resources - assumed a global dimension following the 1st Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero (1992) and the subsequent developments to which this gave rise, in particular the World Convention on Biological Diversity and the present implementation of Agenda 21.
Fishbase thus developed into the most important international reference in its field, with new data being added all the time that can be accessed by anyone on the internet. One could even describe it as the site of the 'united fish organisation'.
In addition to the FAO and European Commission, the consortium of institutions that supports FishBase financially and scientifically includes the WorldFish Centre, Penang (Malaysia) where the idea was born, Ifm-GEOMAR in Kiel (DE), the National Museum of Natural History in Paris (FR), the Royal Museum ...
In addition to the FAO and European Commission, the consortium of institutions that supports FishBase financially and scientifically includes the WorldFish Centre, Penang (Malaysia) where the idea was born, Ifm-GEOMAR in Kiel (DE), the National Museum of Natural History in Paris (FR), the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren (BE), the Natural History Museum in Stockholm (SE), the Fisheries Centre at the University of Vancouver (CA) and Aristotle University in Thessaloniki (GR). More than 1 000 private individuals and institutions also contributed publications, information, documents, photographs, etc.