Vision for FISH-BOL

Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates; there may be as many as 30,000 different species. Because of their high diversity and profound changes in appearance during development, fish identification is no easy task. DNA barcodes as a tool for species identification and discovery has now been widely documented, and such the Fish Barcode of Life (FISH-BOL) initiative seeks to simplify fish identification through the use of these barcodes. The FISH-BOL initiative represents the first effort to assemble a global sequence library for such a diverse group of organisms.

Given the estimated $200 billion USD annual value of fisheries worldwide, FISH-BOL addresses socially relevant questions concerning market substitution and quota management of commercial fisheries. As a consequence DNA barcoding was adapted by governmental agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration for seafood identification. For the discipline of ichthyology, FISH-BOL provides a powerful tool for enhanced understanding of the natural history and ecological interactions of various fish species. Some 200 publications since its inception in 2005 document its growing importance. Furthermore, the specimens collected and data generated from FISH-BOL contributed to an ongoing synthesis concerning the evolutionary history of the most diverse group of vertebrates on Earth. Finally, because the entire edifice of DNA barcoding collapses without accurate taxonomic identifications of reference specimens, the successful execution of FISH-BOL serves as a powerful demonstration of the immense value of collections, museums and taxonomists to both science and society.