Rainier Froese on FishBase
FishBase is an international, multi-language database for over 30,000 species of fish. Although not designed for the marine hobbyist, FishBase has become a definitive tool in the hobby. The brainchild of Daniel Pauly, FishBase was first available on the Internet in 1996. Rainer Froese joined Pauly in 1988 and has been a key member of the FishBase team ever since. Froess was the FishBase Project Leader from 1990 to 2000, and he has served as the FishBase Coordinator since 2001. He has agreed to talk with us about FishBase and its value to the marine hobbyist.
In a sentence, what is FishBase?
FishBase is an information system on all fishes of the world, freshwater and marine. It provides free online access to summary information as well as the underlying scientific data.
What is your current role?
Since 1990 I am the principle architect and coordinator of FishBase, supervising a team of 15 full-time encoders based in the Philippines.
How did FishBase begin?
FishBase started out as a tool for fisheries managers, providing them with key information such as growth, fecundity and mortality rates, in an effort to improve global fisheries. We were thinking of maybe 500 users worldwide and in the beginning we distributed FishBase first on diskettes and then on CDs.
How many people visit FishBase every day? Who are the most common users?
FishBase went online in the late 90s and currently we have up to one million hits from 50,000 visitors per day. The fisheries managers we aimed for are still an important user group, but the most common users are aquarists, anglers, divers, and students.
How many species of marine fish are in the database currently?
In the Tools section of FishBase there is a 'Fish statistics' link which tells us that we have currently 14,024 species of primary marine fishes, i.e., those that do not enter brackish or freshwaters.
What information in the FishBase database might be most useful to the hobbyist?
FishBase gives information on the natural traits of fishes, such as maximum size, habitats, reproduction, preferred food, temperature, pH, depth range etc. I believe all of this will be of interest to hobbyists.
Where should the hobbyists go for good information online regarding invertebrates?
There is a similar information system under development for invertebrates, see www.sealifebase.org and try, e.g., blue spiny lobster.
Is there anyway the hobbyist can contribute to FishBase?
Yes, we are still missing good underwater photos of many species, especially if they show color variants of juveniles, males and females, or courtship behavior. Such photos can now be uploaded directly. Divers can also upload their underwater observations in our FishWatcher section; these coordinates are used to build maps. Also, if you spot an error in FishBase, please alert us by clicking on the 'Comments & Corrections' link.
Are there any big plans in the works to improve FishBase in the future?
Having distribution maps for all species is one of our current goals.
Do you have a marine aquarium at home? If so, tell us a little about it.
In Germany I used to have a cold water aquarium with North Sea species such as lobster, stickleback and lumpsucker. I spent 10 years in the Philippines and there I had a marine tank with animals my kids caught in the shallow waters, such as damsel fish, bat fish, moray eels, hermit crabs, octopus, sea stars and sea urchins. We kept them for a while and released them when they were getting too big or 'unhappy.'