More than 2,600 technical terms are explained

The GLOSSARY table contains definitions of more than 2,600 terms related to ichthyology, taxonomy, ecology, conservation, population dynamics, genetics, oceanography, geography and related disciplines. It can be accessed from anywhere within FishBase and is meant to help users in getting acquainted with the terms and concepts used in the database. Terms and definitions are given in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Please contact us if you have any comments on our definitions or suggestions for additional terms.


The glossary was originally derived from the various help messages in FishBase and checked against similar glossaries in taxonomic books and in biological, geographical and other dictionaries (e.g., UNEP/WCMC 1995). It also contains all vernacular names of fish families and the acronyms, addresses and additional information on 200 fish collections. Later we added¾ with permission¾ selected terms from glossaries in FAO Species Catalogues; the Zoological Code of Nomenclature (1985); the Marine Ecosystem Classification for the Tropical Island Pacific (Holthus and Maragos 1995); Fish Population Dynamics in Tropical Waters: a Manual for Use with Programmable Calculators (Pauly 1984); Guide Book to New Zealand Commercial Fish Species (Armitage et al. 1994); Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia (May and Maxwell 1986); Trawled Fishes of Southern Indonesia and Northwestern Australia (Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola 1984); Continental Shelf Fishes of Northern and North-Western Australia (Sainsbury et al. 1985); Status of Fishery Resources off the Southeastern United States for 1993 (Southeast Fisheries Science Center 1995); and several others. The definitions were edited and cross-referenced; you can get to the cross-referenced terms by double-clicking on the respective field.

How to get there

You get to the GLOSSARY table by clicking on the Glossary button in the Main Menu or anywhere in FishBase. The GLOSSARY table is also accessible outside of FishBase by double-clicking on its icon in the FishBase Group window.


On the Internet, the GLOSSARY table is attached to all data pages. You can also access it directly from the ‘Search FishBase’ page. Note that if a term is not found in the FishBase Glossary, the search is automatically transferred to the search routine of the Encyclopedia Britannica.


I thank Daniel Pauly for editing an early version of the glossary and for his valuable comments on the current edition. I also thank the many colleagues who allowed us to use definitions from their respective glossaries. Special thanks to M.L.D. Palomares, J.-C. Hureau, P. Pruvost, N. Bailly, S. Planes, N. Margout and C. Lhomme-Binudin for their help with the French translation.


Armitage, R.O., D.A. Payne, G.J. Lockley, H.M. Currie, R.L. Colban, B.G. Lamb and L.J. Paul. 1994. Guide book to New Zealand commercial fish species. New Zealand Fishing Industry Board, Wellington, New Zealand. 216 p.

Gloerfelt-Tarp, T. and P.J. Kailola. 1984. Trawled fishes of southern Indonesia and northwestern Australia. Australia Development Assistance Bureau, Australia; Directorate General of Fisheries, Indonesia; German Agency for Technical Cooperation, Germany. 407 p.

Holthus, P.F. and J.E. Maragos. 1995. Marine ecosystem classification for the tropical island Pacific, p. 239-280. In J.E. Maragos, M.N.A. Peterson, L.G. Eldredge, J.E. Bardach and H.F. Takeuchi (eds.) Marine and coastal biodiversity in the Tropical Island Pacific Region. East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii.

May, J.L. and J.G.H. Maxwell. 1986. Field guide to trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. 492 p.

Pauly, D. 1984. Fish population dynamics in tropical waters: a manual for use with programmable calculators. ICLARM Stud. Rev. 8, 325 p.

Sainsbury, K.J., P.J. Kailola and G.G. Leyland. 1985. Continental shelf fishes of northern and north-western Australia. CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Canberra, Australia, 375 p.

Southeast Fisheries Science Center. 1995. Status of fishery resources off the southeastern United States for 1993. NOAA Tech. Mem. NMFS-SEFSC-368, 72 p.

UNEP/WCMC. 1995. Electronic resource inventory: A searchable resource for biodiversity data management. WCMC, Cambridge, UK. [Windows 3.1 or higher].

Rainer Froese