Started in the late 1980s as a compilation of fish growth and mortability parameters for fisheries managers, FishBase has developed into the largest scientifically validated and reliable electronic information system on what you wanted to know about fish. The fathers of this ambitious - and extremely useful - undertaking are Daniel Pauly and Rainer Froese. Its design and development illustrates how important it is to validate, structure and make retrievable information from widely scattered sources. Expert estimates of the number of fish species were around 20,000 in the beginning, because it was already then impossible for an individual to have a complete overview. Today, with the help of more than 2000 international collaborators over the years, some 32,700 species of fish have been documented and made available by the FishBase consortium and Team (situation September 2013). Scientific institutions in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Malaysia, Philippines, and Sweden as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) are part of the consortium.

The web archive contains information extracted from almost 50,000 publications. Information ranges from the basics of identifying the species or a group (genus, family ...), to the biology, physiology, distribution maps of species and what other species it interacts with to get a headstart on ecoystem approaches to our understanding of aquatic biodiversity. Growth and mortality estimates are provided as well as several wizzards to estimate such parameters on the fly with your own data, to estimate generation time as a function of species and size to provide indications on vulnerability to overfishing and much more.

Some 300,000 common names in many languages facilitate access also to non-specialists who might not be familiar with the scientific name.

The information can also be accessed in different formats, depending what the purpose and interest is. The entry may e.g. be a list of all fish species in a given country or island - or for that matter, all introduced or threatened fish species. Choices from the menu by country are many. Other entries might be by ecosystem or by topic (e.g. in such categories as trophic ecology, behaviour, life history and many more. Among the many tools to combine information to answer specific questions 'on the fly' are analytical possibilities estimate parameters needed for management or conservation, to help create geographical subsets of information or estimate the degree of invasiveness or expected change of distribution under climate change scenarios.

The between 30 and 40 million hits/months are an indication that many people, scientists, specialists and anybody curious to know something about fish is using FishBase increasingly as part of the knowledge infrastructure and preferred source.

Find out more for yourself, click on the link to FishBase.