29 October 2015


Dr. Daniel Pauly at a White House event on citizen science. (Source: Sea Around Us)

We take pride as SeaLifeBase’s Principal Investigator, Dr. Daniel Pauly speaks in the recently held discussion of the Oceans and Coasts session of the “Open Science and Innovation: Of the people, by the people, for the people”, a live-webcast forum of the White House held last September 30, 2015. The event was hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Domestic Policy Council, having three objectives: (1) to celebrate the successes of citizen science and crowdsourcing; (2) to raise awareness of the benefits these innovative approaches can deliver and; (3) to motivate more Federal agencies and Americans to take advantage of these approaches [1].

In this forum, Dr. Pauly presented FishBase and briefly discussed the efforts of its project staff in the Philippines in gathering and extracting data from vast references in order to make information on all fishes become freely available to the world through the database. FishBase, an online information system founded more than 25 years ago, has grown to become one of the largest global database sources (GSDs) that provides systematic information on all fishes of the world including Etheostoma obama and Teleogramma obamaorum, two species of fish named in honor of President Obama. The database has received almost 50 million hits from over half a million users in a month and has been cited by more than 5000 scientific studies over the past decade, based from the Google scholar [2].

The forum was participated by respected citizen science professionals, researchers, stakeholders from different levels of the government, acadaemia as well as the non-profits and private sectors. It is such an honor for the whole FishBase team to be recognized as a successful science project by the White House. SeaLifeBase and  the whole FishBase Information and Research Group Inc. (FIN) family are very proud of what FishBase, with its founders, Dr. Pauly and Dr. Rainer Froese, have achieved.

Cheers! For future great collaborations that this opportunity might bring.

Watch the complete footage of the event here.

Links to other posts about the event: for Sea Around Us and for FishBase.


[1] Kalil, T. and D. Wilkinson.  Accelerating Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing to Address Societal andScientific Challenges. Published on September 30, 2015. [Accessed 10/22/2015].

[2] The FishBase Project Facebook page. Coming Soon: FishBase in the White House! Published on September 28, 2015.  [Accessed 10/22/2015].

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15 October 2015

Secret of resilience revealed in Antarctic octopod

Photo by Thomas Lundälv.

At a constant temperature of -1.8°C to 2°C in the Antarctic, ectotherms adapt various strategies to survive near-freezing temperatures. Such a condition may increase the solubility of oxygen but increase blood viscosity, making it difficult to deliver oxygen in tissues [1,2]. But such a dire circumstance does not thwart the Antartic octopod’s survival in freezing waters.

However, this octopod does not only thrive in cold temperatures, evidence suggests that a functional change in its blue-blood pigment ‘haemocyanin' enhances oxygen supply to octopod tissues, notably at higher temperatures. This could mean increased resiliency to warmer climate as global warming advances in the Antarctic Peninsula [1,2].

How does an Antartic octopod survive temperature extremes? Researchers analyzed the haemolymph of three octopod species – the Antarctic octopod Pareledone charcoti and the two species residing in warmer climates, Octopus pallidus and Eledone moschata. They found out that P. charcoti has one of the highest concentration of haemolymph recorded for octopods, allowing sufficient oxygen supply. Also, relative to the two other species, oxygen transport via haemocyanin in P. charcoti (76.7% on average) was significantly improved at 10°C compared to 0°C. Such a remarkable feat may allow the Antarctic octopod to thrive in both warm and cold temperatures [1]. Amazing, isn’t it?

To know more about these species and octopods in general, visit SeaLifeBase.

[1] BioMed Central. (2015, March 10). “Blue-blood on ice: How an Antarctic octopus survives the cold.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 16, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150310205703.htm

[2] Oellermann, M., Lieb, B., Pörtner, H.O., Semmens, J.M., Mark, F.C. (2015). Blue blood on ice: modulated blood oxygen transport facilitates cold compensation and eurythermy in an Antarctic octopod. Frontiers in Zoology.

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25 August 2015

FishBase at 25: transcending the impossible

Poster by R. Atanacio

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

Ideas are not entirely original. They are built on something that was conceived long before, sitting atop each other as an idea reaches new horizons.  And they become so much more, sometimes way beyond what was once conceived. When people are curious enough to embrace ideas and the “what could be’s” that come with it, the impossible becomes less daunting.

Such rings true in the creation of FishBase.  With brilliant, hardworking individuals willing to collaborate, the world is sure to conspire in making a vision a stark reality. It didn’t come easy as most successful stories are. Most of the time it’s grueling - but FishBase stood firm on its vision. Finally the story can be told.

In 1986, Walter Fischer (FAO) created a global database (SPECIESDAB) encompassing basic information on important, commercially exploited fish and invertebrates. Drawing inspiration from this idea, Daniel Pauly suggested the transfer of  his compilation of fish population dynamics data to a standardized database in 1987. Who would have imagined that Pauly’s collection of 630 note cards would become a worldwide phenomenon known as FishBase 25 years later? The catalyst spinned off a series of events - from a raw idea, to the prototype and to the dynamic database FishBase is known for today. 

Rainer Froese, from the Institut für Meereskunde, in Kiel, Germany, implemented Pauly’s idea, and together with inputs from ICLARM scientists along with their programmers, the design of what to become as FishBase was conceived. Data entry kicked off in 1988, with only two research assistants, Susan M. Luna and Belen Acosta.

What is more valuable than a lasting partnership with key institutions that share noble interests? Collaboration, as stressed by reviewers, should be at the core of widening the scope and improving FishBase. This led to ICLARM and FAO forging a partnership in 1989. This allowed coordination of developments in FishBase and SPECIESDAB – a relationship which helped acquire FishBase’s first grant from European Commission. On-board and ready to set sail, FishBase became one of ICLARM’s major projects in 1990. With a clear-cut target, full-time data entry on all finfish species began. Transfer of tables to a more powerful relational database, Microsoft Access, became possible in 1994.

Restrictions in mass CD-ROM production did not hinder FishBase from its first wide release. Efforts paid off and there came 130 copies of FishBase 100, the first mass-produced version of FishBase in 1995. The successive release of 1000 copies of FishBase 1.2 hooked more than 160 collaborators and more than 400 recipients. Nature commended the capacities of FishBase 1.2. Another feat was achieved as FishBase 96 became the first fully tested version of FishBase, garnering 1000 users, more collaborators, ACP-EU grant, and a breakthrough in the number of users in developing countries. Reviews of FishBase from a number of journals pointed out that if gaps are to be bridged and collaboration more broadened, FishBase is certain to become an indispensable database.

The proponents knew that the database can do so much. How much more if it successfully pervades the Internet? FishBase became online in 1998. In two years, the turn of a new century made FishBase an Internet sensation, with over 30,000 unique users, covering 60,000 user sessions, and gaining recognition from USA Today as the number of hits reached 554,000 in March 2000.

Another celebration was at the corner as FishBase hit the coveted ceiling of 25,000 known fish species in August 2000. Today, the premiere database contains 33,208 valid extant species, more than 300,000 common names, 9,000 population dynamics data, 11,000 biological and ecological information, and 58,000 pictures, among other information relevant to fishery science. To this date, FishBase boasts of a suite of tools and modules relevant to research and teaching biodiversity, fisheries conservation and management.

Practically, as the longest running project conceived to initially populate 2,000 species, FishBase has carved a niche in the field of biological information systems with over 1,700 citations worldwide and 0.6 million web visits by 0.3 million users globally.

FishBase is a considerable feat of knowledge, vision, and resilience. It has surpassed challenges of every sort in its 25 years of exceptional journey. What started as a small initiative has gained the respect and recognition of the whole world today.