Fishes are the most diverse group of vertebrates, with about 33,133 species worldwide (figure from Catalog of Fishes) - more than half of all vertebrate species (Nelson 2006).

The most authoritative estimate of the number of fish species in Australian waters is 4,482 described species and about 300 spp of 'uncertain identity' (Hoese et al 2006), a somewhat higher ratio of undescribed species than found worldwide reflecting the relatively understudied nature of the Australian fauna. Few countries in the world have fish faunas as speciose as does Australia, and possibly only Indonesia and the Philippines have more species known, but undescribed. Further, the degree of endemism in the Australian fish fauna is very high (Hoese et al. 2006).

Therefore, much work remains to be done on the basic taxonomy of Australian fishes, not to mention their larval stages. Beyond that, it is important to understand the relationships of these fishes, not only to place their biology in perspective, but also to help understand the biology and ecology of rare, endangered or otherwise difficult-to-study species by applying knowledge of their close relatives. Finally, basic understanding of the distributions, habitat requirements and life histories of Australian fishes is woefully inadequate. This knowledge is needed to help manage fisheries, aquatic reserves, and the aquatic environment in general.

It is to advance knowledge in all these areas that OzFishNet was established.

  1. Hoese, D.F, Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen 2006. Fishes in Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia, Vol. 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia Part 1, pp. xxiv 1-670; Part 2, pp xxi 671-1472; Part 3, pp. xxi 1473-2178.
  2. Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World, 4th edition. J Wiley. 601 pp.