8. Contributing to FishBase

The FishBase project is a large, international, non-profit venture which started in 1989 and whose latest product, FishBase Online (see www.fishbase.org) covers essentially all the fish in the world - at least in terms of nomenclature. In terms of biology and ecology the coverage is, however, rather spotty and it is paradoxically in the well-studied temperate areas that the coverage is most incomplete, at least relative to the available literature. The reason for this is that FishBase was funded by the European Commission to cover countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific ('ACP') that are associated with the European Union.

For FishBase to realize its potential as the integrated, computerized system of fish most useful to the global ichthyological community, it requires input from users, including students. Thus you are encouraged to contribute to FishBase, notably by sending reprints or photocopies of material used for your analyses, as well as other information which you think should be incorporated (with complete sources!). You are also welcome to submit photos. The section of the FishBase book on 'How to become a collaborator and why' discusses details on the manners in which such contributions are acknowledged (see also the Collaborators Table); also note that you retain all rights to any submitted photo.

Students usually ask 'simple' but rather hard to answer questions, such as for instance 'is this shark species dangerous?' or 'does this species have an air bladder?' or 'what is the natural mortality of this species?' Answering these questions is often difficult because it involves context-free information. Checking FishBase for such questions will generally get you an answer (e.g., the mortality of shark), but you won't really 'learn' much from it. It is by putting the answer in context that you generate knowledge. The FishBase book and this online guide provide context, and thus enable a deeper use of FishBase.

Some questions might not be answered through FishBase (e.g., that about the air bladder). This only shows that FishBase is not yet complete. FishBase is the result of the hard work of the FishBase team and of its more than 1,200 collaborators. So become a collaborator and contribute to its growth – together, we can solve the gas bladder problem!

8.1. Exercise

•  Do a gap analysis on the information for all fish species inhabiting the fresh and marine waters of your country or any country of your preference. A gap analyis helps identify priorities for future research in a geographic region by estimating how many species out of the total number of species occurring in a country or region are covered in FishBase with respect to the various FishBase topics (e.g., photos, common names, ecology, growth, L-W relationships, maturity, diet, reproduction, spawning). [Hint: use the Information gaps routine under the Tools section of the FishBase search page.]

•  Use Google Scholar (or any other search machine), to see if there are available published sources on the gaps identified above.

•  Select one of the topics (e.g., growth, feeding habits), and write a short review (i.e., collect all available papers on all species on this topic for the selected country/region and tabulize the quantitative information which is used in FishBase).

•  Submit it to a primary journal (e.g., Acta Ichthyological et Piscatoria, which has a FishBase Section).