Representatives of the Fishbase consortium in Kiel. Photo: Jan Steffen/GEOMAR

Representatives of the Fishbase consortium in Kiel. Photo: Jan Steffen/GEOMAR


FishBase consortium meets in Kiel

Future of the largest database on fish discussed

7 September 2018/Kiel. More than 34,000 species, 300,000 colloquial and technical names and almost 60,000 photos - FishBase is the largest information portal on marine and freshwater fish worldwide. The constantly expanded and updated database, which has existed since 1995, is popular with researchers and the broader public alike. The website attracts around 700,000 unique visitors per month. At the beginning of 2017, FishBase ranked fourth among the most cited references in the field of fish and fisheries research.

This week, 30 representatives and guests of the FishBase consortium from 12 scientific institutions met at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel to discuss plans for future activities and projects. “For example, we would like to implement a state-of-the-art search interface, but at the same time we have to put the funding of FishBase on a new basis”, Dr. Rainer Froese of GEOMAR, Chairman of the FishBase Board of Trustees explains. Currently, the database, including scientific and technical support, is financed by project funding and donations. “On this basis, large technical leaps are unfortunately not possible”, says Dr. Froese.

Before the consortium meeting, the annual FishBase Symposium took place on Tuesday. Around 50 participants exchanged the latest findings from the field of fish and fishery biology. Some of these findings would not have been possible without the comprehensive data resources of the FishBase database. Recently, for example, an international team was able to show that most fish species originate in the cold polar seas, not, as previously assumed, in tropical coral seas use FishBase data.

The origins of FishBase go back to the 1980s. The first CD version was released in 1995, and the FishBase database went online for the first time in 1998: “We started with 15,000 species and had about 2,000 visitors per month, mainly from science”, explains Rainer Froese, who was also one of the founding fathers of the portal. Since 2000, FishBase has been managed by an international consortium in which GEOMAR is also represented. The data is maintained by a team of specialists in the Philippines, with the support of scientists from all over the world. There are now more than 20 language versions, testifying to the worldwide use of the information platform. “The dire state of large parts of marine and freshwater fish biodiversity and the fact that most sharks and large tuna and bill fishes are now on the IUCN Red Lists of threatened or near threatened species makes the free services FishBase provides all the more important”, Dr. Froese emphasizes.