You are on page 1of 21

Fisheries of America

Fisheries, industry of harvesting fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals. Fisheries may be large commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, or small subsistence fisheries (fishing to provide the basic needs of the fishing community). The term fishery is also used to describe the waters where fishing takes place or the species of fish being harvested, such as the Alaska halibut fishery. Fisheries include familiar finned fish species, like cod and flounder; mollusks, including oysters and squid; and crustaceans, such as shrimp and crabs. Lesser-known fisheries include echinoderms, like sea urchins; some amphibians, including frogs; and cnidarians, such as jellyfish. Even the harvest of whales is usually considered a fishery.

Historical Perspectives:
fish culture has been a tradition in Southeast Asia for over 2000 years. Fan-Li wrote the first extensive treatise on fish culture in China about 800 BCE. The document resides in the British Museum. By 1368 CE, the Ming Dynasty began the promotion of fish farms to support the Live Fish markets, that even today, dominate Chinese fish sales. In 1864 G.O. Sars developed artificial propagation of marine fish fry in Norway. Sars fertilized, hatched and released 67 million cod yolk-sac fry, starting modern fish hatcheries for restocking declining fish resources- as well as modern fisheries science. In 1864 the first salmon canneries were built on the Columbia river, to provide d for gold miners and railroad laborers in the west. In 1871 the US Fish Commission was created. The next era in North America’s history of fish hatcheries began in 1872 when the American Fish Culturists Association Appropriated $17,000 for the Government to Begin fish culture development. Also in 1872 Livingston Stone made the first salmon egg collection for artificial fertilization, at Baird Station on the

McCloud River. In 1874 Stone also shipped American shad to Europe, for introduction. Meanwhile, the Baird Hatchery began shipping fertilized salmon eggs worldwide. Ironically, it is now under water due to building of Shasta dam. In 1877 the first salmon cannery was built in Klawok, Alaska. In 1879 Oyster propagation was begun for Maryland Fish Commission 1882. Fish hatcheries and invertebrate culture facilities sprung up along the northeast of North America, becoming the sites of various early marine science institutions. Along the west coast, from California to Alaska, salmon and trout hatcheries proliferated, and formed an entirely unique put-and-take fish economic activity. Most of the regions’ once pristine lakes were soon stocked with alien species, never to be the same, again.

Fisheries are an important source of food, income, jobs, and recreation for people around the world. This is particularly true in island nations, such as Japan and Iceland, where seafood is eaten as a major source of protein. The average person in Iceland eats nearly 90 kg (200 lb) of fish per year, more than six times the worldwide average. Worldwide harvest of fishery products has steadily increased to meet the growing global demand for seafood. In 2001 an estimated 130 million metric tons of fishery products were harvested. China was responsible for the largest harvest, followed by Peru, Japan, India, Chile, the United States, Indonesia, and Russia. The increasing demand for seafood has led to a complex, global system of trade in fisheries products. Japan is the largest importer, followed by the United States, France, Spain, and Germany. Thailand is the largest exporter, followed by the United States, Norway, China, and Denmark. The United States imports large quantities of high-valued fishery products, such as shrimp and lobster, and exports products not as popular among American consumers, such as salmon roe (eggs) and sea urchin roe, which are exported to Japan. Today scientists consider many fisheries to be fished beyond the capacity of the resource. Current harvest rates are thought to be unsustainable that is, unable to be maintained year after year without depletion of the fish stock.

Experts believe that increases in world fish supply will require better management of the resources as well as the increased use of fish farming or aquaculture.

Major fisheries;
The range of fisheries is immense over 4,000 aquatic species are harvested worldwide. The shrimp fishery alone includes well over 40 species. Fisheries are located almost anywhere there is water from the brine shrimp fishery in the Great Salt Lake of Utah in the United States, to the North Pacific Ocean where salmon, Pollock, king crab, halibut, and many other species are caught. Over 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are located in the coastal and ocean environment, and nearly 20 percent are found in inland fresh water fisheries. Currently, over half of the world’s fishery harvests come from the Pacific Ocean; 25 percent are from the North Pacific alone. The largest fisheries group is made up of small, pelagic (open ocean) fishes such as herring, sardine, anchovy, and related species. Over 20 percent of the world’s fishery harvest comes from this group, and Chile and Peru are the leading harvesters. These fish have relatively low commercial value and are often used to make feed for poultry, hogs, and other animals. Another large category of harvested fishes, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the world’s fishery harvest, is the groundfish, or demersal fish, that live near the ocean floor. These generally white-fleshed fishes include cod, haddock, pollock, and hake. Cod and haddock tend to be relatively high in commercial value. The Alaskan pollock is less valuable and is often used in the fish sandwiches sold at fast-food restaurants. Also in the groundfish group are flatfish, such as flounder, halibut, and sole, which live directly on the ocean bottom. This well-known group of fish usually has a high commercial value but accounts for less than 1 percent of world harvest. Fish such as tuna, swordfish, marlin, and mahi-mahi make up the large pelagic fish category and account for nearly 5 percent of world harvest. Tuna is consumed fresh in great quantities in Japan and sold canned around the world. Canned tuna is the fish eaten most often in the United States. Salmon belong to the anadromous group, meaning they lay their eggs in fresh water but usually spend their adult lives in the ocean. Although the salmon fishery only accounts for about 2 percent of world fishery harvests, it is one of the most important wild fisheries in Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States (especially to the fishery industry in the state of Alaska).

Salmon are also cultured in farms in many countries, including Australia, Chile, Canada, Norway, Scotland, and the United States. Some species of salmon are also highly prized sport fish. Several freshwater fisheries are also important. Carp and related freshwater fish are consumed mostly in Asia and parts of Europe. Carp are generally raised in ponds and account for nearly 10 percent of all fish harvested worldwide. In the Southern United States, the farm-raised catfish industry grew rapidly from a cottage industry in the 1970s to the largest aquaculture industry in the United States in the 1990s. The tilapia, a freshwater or brackish water (mixture of fresh and saltwater) fish native to Africa, is now being raised globally to add protein to the diets of people in less-developed areas—especially in Asia and South America. It is also being sold to meet the growing demand for seafood in countries such as the United States. Tilapia harvests make up a relatively small percentage of the global fish supply, but production is still increasing. Shrimp are harvested worldwide. Most large- and medium-sized shrimp come from the tropical waters of countries like Thailand, India, Ecuador, and Mexico. Many small shrimp are harvested from the cold waters of Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. Today, cultured or farmed marine shrimp play an important role in supplying the world’s shrimp demand. Total wild and farmed shrimp harvest accounts for less than 5 percent of the total world fisheries harvest. Even so, shrimp has a very high commercial value and is the most important species group in world fisheries trade. The United States spends more on shrimp purchased from around the world than on any other imported fishery product. Other important fisheries include scallops harvested from Japan, Canada, China, and the United States; king crab from Alaska and Russia; clawed lobster from Canada and the United States; and spiny lobster, squid, and octopus from around the world.

Fishing methods;
The methods used for catching fish are nearly as diverse as the fisheries themselves. For over a thousand years, fisheries in parts of Japan have used trained cormorants (sea birds) to harvest small fish. Elsewhere, sport fishermen use hand-tied, artificial flies to catch trout. Scuba divers harvest abalone and ornamental reef fish. In the United States, harpoons are still used to harvest some bluefin tuna. The net, however, is the most common type of fishing equipment.

Various kinds of nets are used for different kinds of fish. Seine nets encircle entire schools of fish and are used to harvest tuna, salmon, anchovies, and menhaden. Trawl nets are usually shaped somewhat like a cone and are towed behind fishing boats to catch cod, flounder, and shrimp. Gill nets are made with openings that are just large enough for the head of the fish to pass through, hooking the gills into the mesh. This method is often used to catch salmon and herring. Fish traps use nets as underwater fences to guide fish into a holding area from which they cannot exit. This method is particularly useful if the fish are to be sold live. Dredges and dredge nets use a metal frame at the mouth of a net that is dragged along the bottom. This type of gear is used to harvest scallops and oysters. Crab and lobster are generally caught using baited cages called pots. Some octopus fisheries use clay pots into which the octopus enters instinctively when looking for a hiding place. Variations of the rod and reel method are used in both recreational and commercial fisheries. They are used in trolling (trailing a baited line behind a moving boat) for high-valued species, such as bluefin tuna and chinook salmon. Longlines are long, heavy ropes attached to lines with baited hooks. They can extend for several kilometers and are attached to moored buoys or trolled from vessels. Longlines are used to catch halibut, swordfish, shark, and cod. In the 1950s large-scale commercial fishing, known as industrialized fisheries, began to exploit increasingly larger areas of the oceans. Industrialized fisheries used improved fishing vessels, including factory ships that could process fish catches at sea, and fish-finding equipment that included sonar and even airplanes for spotting schools of fish, making it easier than ever to find the target fish. In the 1980s the global positioning system began to be used so that fishing vessels could return to precise locations where fish were found. Improved nets and other fishing gear also greatly improved the efficiency of harvests. The use of these improved methods led to intense pressure on fish stocks, resulting in the potential depletion of many fisheries.

Depletion of fish stock;
The increasing global demand for fish over the past several decades has increased the pressure to harvest more and more fish. In the 1970s, most nations enacted laws to protect a 300-km (200-mi) ocean zone along their own coastlines. In the United States and many other places, this eventually

resulted in the prohibition of foreign fishing vessels within these protected boundaries. However, in most cases, rather than limiting the amount of fishing, this measure has caused fishing to increase as domestic fishing vessels replaced the foreign fleets. Fishing effort has been consistently increasing for several decades, resulting in world harvests more than 300 percent above 1950 harvest levels. This increased harvest has had major consequences. Scientists at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN) consider over one-third of the world’s top 200 marine fisheries to be in a state of decline. Some of the fisheries in decline include swordfish, bluefin tuna, red snapper, many flatfish species, and Atlantic cod. Furthermore, as popular fish stocks become depleted, harvesters begin to fish more actively for other seafood, such as mackerel, Pacific whiting, and squid. Because the marine ecosystem is complex and involves the interaction of many species, some scientists are concerned that more-intensive fishing in lower niches of the marine food chain may inhibit the recovery of popular fish stocks. This is because the popular fish may depend on these fish for food. On the other hand, the substitute fish and the popular fish may compete for the same food or habitat. In this case, harvesting the substitute fish may help the recovery of the popular fish species. In 2002 the UN-sponsored World Summit on Sustainable Development called for restoring fish stocks by 2015.

Fisheries management;
Fisheries are difficult to manage effectively because they exist in a complex ecosystem and are often considered a common property resource (owned by all citizens of a nation). Some management practices include gear control, such as regulating the size and shape of the holes in fishing nets; seasonal fishery openings and closings and critical habitat area closures to protect the breeding grounds of threatened fish; restricting the size of the fish that can be harvested; establishing quotas that limit the number of fish that can be caught; and limiting the number of days that a vessel can fish. In some fisheries, the total allowable catch for a given area is allocated to harvesters as a quota share. In some places, this share can be bought or sold. This type of individual quota management system is common in New Zealand and is used in the halibut fisheries in the United States and Canada. Aquaculture, or fish farming, in which aquatic organisms are raised under controlled conditions in ponds, tanks, or floating net pens, is becoming a part of fisheries management. Aquaculture techniques, which help increase

stock populations and control predators, are used in the oyster, clam, and mussel fisheries. Fish farming may help reduce harvest pressure on the remaining wild stocks. In Japan, the chum salmon fishery and several other fisheries depend upon hatcheries where fish reproduction and survival is enhanced to provide the young fish. In fact, aquaculture production is becoming an essential part of the world’s fish supply. The share of the total world harvest produced through aquaculture has steadily increased over the past two decades and now accounts for nearly 20 percent of world harvest. One of the greatest challenges in fisheries management is the control of bycatch, the unintentional killing of species not intended to be caught, such as low value fish, immature fish, or even marine mammals. Dolphins, for example, are sometimes caught in seine nets intended for catching tuna. Shrimp trawls may catch and drown sea turtles. Although measures have been taken to protect sea turtles and dolphins, the wasteful harvest of bycatch animals is still a major problem worldwide. Fisheries are influenced by more than just fishing activity. Fishery managers must also manage activities on land, such as agriculture, irrigation, pollution, and development, which may impact critical fisheries habitat. Finally, fisheries exist in an environment that naturally fluctuates. Events such as changes in ocean currents and temperatures can dramatically influence the size and health of fish stocks, making them more of a challenge to manage effectively.

Common Carps

The Common carp or European carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a widespread freshwater fish related to the common goldfish (Carassius auratus), with which it is capable of interbreeding. It gives its name to the carp family Cyprinidae. Common carp are native to Asia and Eastern Europe. It has been introduced into environments worldwide, and is often considered an invasive species There are many species of heavy-bodied cyprinid fishes collectively known as Asian carps. Heavy-bodied cyprinids from the subcontinent (for example Catla Catla catla and mrigal Cirrhinus cirrhosus) are not included in this classification and are known collectively as "Indian Carps". Eight Asian carps have been substantially introduced outside of their native ranges:
• • • • •

grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) common carp (Cyprinus carpio) silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) largescale silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys harmandi) bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)

• • •

black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) goldfish (Carassius auratus) crucian carp (Carassius carassius)

All the above except largescale silver carp have been cultivated in aquaculture in China for over 1,000 years. Largescale silver carp, a more southern species, is native to, and is cultivated in Vietnam. Grass, silver, bighead and black carps are known as the "Four Domesticated Fish" in China and are the most important freshwater fish species for food and Chinese medicine. Bighead and silver carps are the most important fish, worldwide, in terms of total aquaculture production . Common carp and crucian carp are also common foodfishes in China and elsewhere. Goldfish, on the other hand, are cultivated mainly as pet fish.

Invasive Species Status In North America;
The common carp was brought to the U.S. in 1831, and has been widespread for a long time. In the late 1800s they were distributed widely throughout the United States by the government as a foodfish. However, common carp are not now normally prized as a foodfish in the United States. They are often known to uproot vegetation and muddy water through their habit of rooting in the mud for food, and are thought to often have detrimental effects on native species However, common carp are prized in Europe as a sportfish, and angling for common carp is enjoying increased popularity in the United States. Because of their prominence, and because they were imported to the United States much later than the other species, the term "Asian carps" is often used in the United States with the intended meaning of only grass, black, silver, and bighead carps. In the United States Asian carps are considered to be nuisance invasive species. Of the Asian carps that have been introduced to the United States, only two (crucian and black carps) are not known to be firmly established. Crucian carp is probably extirpated. However, since 2003, several adult, fertile, black carp have been captured from the Atchafalaya and other rivers connected to the Mississippi River

Dr. Leo Nico, in the book Black Carp: Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment of an Introduced Fish, writes that the black carp are likely established in the USA.

Grass Carp Bighead, silver, and grass carps are known to be well-established in the Mississippi River basin (including tributaries) of the United States, where they at times reach extremely high abundances, especially in the case of the bighead and silver carps. Bighead, silver, and grass carp have been captured in that watershed from Louisiana to South Dakota, Minnesota, and Ohio. Grass carp are also established in at least one other watershed, in Texas, and may be established elsewhere. These fishes are thought to be highly detrimental to the environment in the USA where they are established. Because of these concerns, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened stakeholders to develop a national plan for the management and control of invasive Asian carps (referring to bighead,silver, black and grass carp). This plan was in review in April 2007. In July, 2007, all silver carp and largescale silver carp were declared by the U.S. Department of the Interior to be invasive species. There has been a dramatic rise in the populations of bighead and silver carps where they are established in the Mississippi River basin. Bighead and silver carps feed by filtering plankton from the water. The extremely high abundance of bighead and silver carp has caused great concern because of the potential for competition with native species for food and living space. Because of their filter-feeding habits, they are difficult to capture by normal angling methods.

In Canada, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has evaluated the risk of Asian carps invading Canadian waters, particularly the Great Lakes, either by introduction from the Mississippi or through the market in live carps. A few bighead carp and grass carp have been captured in Canada's portions of the Great Lakes, but no Asian carp is known to be established in Canada at this time. In Mexico, grass carp have been established for many years in at least two river systems, where they are considered invasive, but no other Asian carps are known to have been introduced. The U.S. EPA is also concerned about the possibility of Asian carp migrating to the Great Lakes. In 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an electric fish barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the only aquatic link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainage basins. The initial fish barrier was used as a demonstration project to study the design's effectiveness.

Jumping ability;
Silver carp have become notorious for being easily frightened by boats and personal watercraft, which causes them to leap high into the air. The fish can jump 8–10 feet (2.5–3 m) into the air, and numerous boaters have been injured by collisions with the fish[11]. According to the EPA, "reported injuries include cuts from fins, black eyes, broken bones, back injuries, and concussions." Silver carp can grow to 40 pounds (18 kg) in mass. This behavior has sometimes also been attributed to the very similar bighead carp, but this is aprocrophal information. Bighead carp do not normally jump when frightened. Variants include the mirror carp, with large mirror like scales (linear mirror - scaleless except for a row of large scales that run along the lateral line; originating in Germany), the leather carp (virtually unscaled except near dorsal fin), and the fully scaled carp.

Common carp can grow to a maximum length of 5 feet (1.5 meters), a maximum weight of over 80lb (37.3 kg), and an oldest recorded age of at

least 65 years. There was one carp that was caught that was as big as Kylie. The wild, non-domesticated forms tend to be much less stocky at around 20% - 33% the maximum size.

Although they are very tolerant of most conditions, common carp prefer large bodies of slow or standing water and soft, vegetative sediments. A schooling fish, they prefer to be in groups of 5 or more. They natively live in a temperate climate in fresh or brackish water with a 7.0 - 7.5 pH, a water hardness of 10.0 - 15.0 dGH, and an ideal temperature range of 37.4 - 75.2 °F (3 - 24 °C).

The common carp and its variants are omnivorous and will eat almost anything encountered. The common carp is happy to eat a vegetarian diet of water plants, but will also consume insects, crustaceans (including zooplankton), and even dead fish if the opportunity arises.

An egg-layer, a typical adult fish can lay 300,000 eggs in a single spawning. shows that carp can spawn multiple times in a season in some areas. The young are preyed upon by other predatorial fish such as the northern pike and largemouth bass.

Introduction into other habitats

Carp gather near a dock in Lake Powell

Common carp have been introduced, often illegally, into many countries. Due to their habit of grubbing through bottom sediments for food and alteration of their environment, they may destroy, uproot and disturb submerged vegetation causing serious damage to native duck and fish populations. Efforts to non-chemically eradicate a small colony from Tasmania's Lake Crescent have been successful, however the long-term, expensive and intensive undertaking is an example of the both the possibility and difficulty of safely removing the species once it is established

As food;
Common carp are extremely popular with anglers in many parts of Europe, and their popularity as quarry is slowly increasing among anglers in the United States. Specialized baits and tackle have been developed for common carp angling which include specialized boiled baits, otherwise known as "bolies".These are often used inside Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) Bags which are special plastic bags which melt in water. Carp are also popular with spear and bow fisherman. Carp is also eaten in many parts of the world both when caught from the wild and raised in aquaculture. In Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Poland, a carp is a traditional part of a Christmas Eve dinner.


Catfish (order Siluriformes) are a very diverse group of bony fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which give the image of cat-like whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest, the Mekong giant catfish in Southeast Asia and the longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores (species that eat dead material on the bottom), and even to a tiny parasitic species commonly called the candiru, Vandellia cirrhosa. There are armour-plated types and also naked types, neither having scales. Despite their common name, not all catfish have prominent barbels; what defines a fish as being in the order Siluriformes are in fact certain features of the skull and swimbladder. Catfish are of considerable commercial importance; many of the larger species are farmed or fished for food, and some are exploited for sport fishing, including a kind known as noodling. Many of the smaller species, particularly the genus Corydoras, are important in the aquarium hobby.

The catfishes are a monophyletic group. This is supported by molecular evidence.

Catfish belong to a superorder called the Ostariophysi, which also includes the Cypriniformes, Characiformes, Gonorynchiformes and Gymnotiformes, a superorder characterized by the Weberian apparatus. Some place Gymnotiformes as a sub-order of Siluriformes, however this is not as widely accepted. Currently, the Siluriformes are said to be the sister group to the Gymnotiformes, though this has been debated due to more recent molecular evidence. As of 2007 there are about 36 extant catfish families, and about 3,023 extant species have been described. This makes the catfish order the second or third most diverse vertebrate order; in fact, 1 out of every 20 vertebrate species is a catfish. The taxonomy of catfishes is quickly changing. In a 2007 paper, Horabagrus, Phreatobius, and Conorhynchos were not classified under any current catfish families. There is disagreement on the family status of certain groups; for example, Nelson (2006) lists Auchenoglanididae and Heteropneustidae as separate families, while the All Catfish Species Inventory (ACSI) includes them under other families. Also, FishBase and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System lists Parakysidae as a separate family, while this group is included under Akysidae by both Nelson (2006) and ACSI. Many sources do not list the recently revised family Anchariidae. The family Horabagridae, including Horabagrus, Pseudeutropius, and Platytropius, is also not shown by some authors but presented by others as a true group. Thus, the actual number of families differs between authors. The species count is in constant flux due to taxonomic work as well as description of new species. On the other hand, our understanding of catfishes should increase in the next few years due to work by the ACSI. The rate of description of new catfishes is at an all-time high. Between 2003 and 2005, over 100 species have been named, a rate three times faster than that of the past century. In June, 2005, researchers named the newest family of catfish, Lacantuniidae, only the third new family of fish distinguished in the last 70 years (others being the coelacanth in 1938 and the megamouth shark in 1983). The new species in Lacantuniidae, Lacantunia enigmatica, was found in the Lacantun river in Chiapas, Mexico.

A large number of species of catfishes have been named from complete or partial skeletal fossils or even from only otoliths. 19 valid genera and 72

species are based exclusively on fossil remains. There are two fossil families, Andinichthyidae, from the Lower Maastrichtian to Paleocene, as well as Hypsidoridae, from the Middle Eocene. The earliest known catfish are known from the late Campanian-early Maastrichtian of Argentina. Catfish fossils are known from every continent except Australia. Fossils of the Eocene period have been found from Seymour Island in Antarctica. The order dispersed early throughout the continents primarily through land bridgesThe catfish must have spread through Africa to Asia during the late Jurassic if they were to reach Asia. During the Cretaceous period, the rift between South America and Africa would be forming; this may explain the contrast in families between the two continents. Most of the freshwater catfish of the two continents appear to be completely unrelated. Their relatively low diversity in Africa may explain why some primitive fish families coexist with them while they are absent in South America, where the more primitive fish may have been driven extinct. The earliest they could have spread into Central America was the late Miocene.

Distribution and habitat:
Extant catfish species live in inland or coastal waters of every continent except Antarctica. Catfish have inhabited all continents at one time or another. Catfish are most diverse in tropical South America, Africa, and Asia. More than half of all catfish species live in the Americas. They are the only ostariophysans that have entered freshwater habitats in Madagascar, Australia, and New Guinea. They are found primarily in freshwater environments of all kinds, though most inhabit shallow, running water habitats. Representatives of at least eight families are hypogean (live underground) with three families that are also troglobitic (inhabiting caves). Thus, catfishes are some of the most successful cave colonizers among fishes. One such species is Phreatobius cisternarum, known to live underground in phreatic habitats

Most catfish are benthic in nature, meaning they normally associate with the bottom of the water column. However, variety of other lifestyles are also represented among the catfishes. A few species are pelagic in nature.

A Panaque nigrolineatus attached to a piece of wood. A wide range of feeding behaviors and diets are represented by the catfishes. In the family Trichomycteridae alone, there are species that feed on algae, fish scales, mucus, carrion, insects, or even blood in the infamous candirú. Panaque and some species of Hypostomus are unique among catfishes in that are the only fishes able to eat and digest wood. Members of the aspredinid genus Amaralia are known to specialize in feeding on loricariid eggs. Representatives of several catfish families utilize their pectoral spines to produce stridulatory sounds by rubbing a ridged process of the pectoral spine within the cleithral groove, including members of Aspredinidae, Mochokidae, Doradidae, Pimelodidae, and Ictaluridae. Catfishes make a "creaking" sound during defense or appeasement behavior when being attacked by conspecifics. They also vocalize when they are captured or prodded.

The unusual insemination method of sperm drinking was first recorded in the bronze corydoras. In catfishes, fertilization of eggs can be internal, external, or even include sperm passage through female digestive tracts, the so called sperm drinking type of fertilization. Internal insemination is probable in all species of Auchenipteridae. Catfishes express varying levels of care reproductive strategies. In loricariids, parental care is usually well-developed and the male guards the eggs and sometimes the larvae, either carrying eggs or having the eggs attached to the underside of rocks or in cavities. In most of Ariidae, if not all species, the male is a mouthbrooder; he carries the relatively large eggs in his mouth until the young hatch.

Physical characteristics;
External anatomy;
Most catfish are adapted for a benthic lifestyle. In general, they are negatively buoyant, which means that they will usually sink rather than float due to a reduced gas bladder and a heavy, bony head. Catfish have a variety of body shapes, though most have a cylindrical body with a flattened ventrum to allow for benthic feeding. A flattened head allows for digging through the substrate as well as perhaps serving as a hydrofoil. Most have a mouth that can expand to a large size and contains no incisiform teeth; catfish generally feed through suction or gulping rather than biting and cutting prey. However, some families, notably Loricariidae and Astroblepidae, have a suckermouth that allows them to fasten themselves to objects in fast-moving water. Catfish also have a maxilla reduced to a support for barbels; this means that they are unable to protrude their mouths as other fish such as carp.

The channel catfish has four pairs of barbels. Catfish may have up to four pairs of barbels: nasal, maxillary (on each side of mouth), and two pairs of chin barbels, although pairs of barbels may be absent, depending on the species. Because their barbels are more important in detecting food, the eyes on catfish are generally small. Like other ostariophysans, they are characterized by the presence of a Weberian apparatus. Their well-developed Weberian apparatus and reduced gas bladder allow for improved hearing as well as sound production. Catfish have no scales; their bodies are often naked. In some species, the mucus-covered skin is used in cutaneous respiration, where the fish breathes through its skin. In some catfish, the skin is covered in bony plates called scutes; some form of body armor has evolved a number of times within the order. In loricarioids and in the Asian genus Sisor, the armor is primarily made up of one or more rows of free dermal plates. These plates may be supported by vertebral processes, as in scoloplacids and in Sisor, but the processes never fuse to the plates or form any external armor. By contrast, in the subfamily Doumeinae (family Amphiliidae) and in hoplomyzontines (Aspredinidae), the armor is formed solely by expanded vertebral processes that form plates. Finally, the lateral armor of doradids, Sisor, and hoplomyzontines consists of hypertrophied lateral line ossicles with dorsal and ventral lamina. All catfish, except members of Malapteruridae (electric catfish), possess a strong, hollow, bonified leading spine-like ray on their dorsal and pectoral fins. As a defense, these spines may be locked into place so that they stick outwards, which can inflict severe wounds. In several species catfish can use these fin rays to deliver a stinging protein if the fish is irritated. This venom is produced by glandular cells in the epidermal tissue covering the spines. In members of the family Plotosidae, and of the genus Heteropneustes, this

protein is so strong it may hospitalize humans unfortunate enough to receive a sting; in Plotosus lineatus, the stings may result in death. Juvenile catfishes, like most fishes, have relatively large heads, eyes and posterior median fins in comparison to larger, more mature individuals.. Thus, juvenile catfishes generally resemble and develop smoothly into their adult form without distinct juvenile specializations. Exceptions to this are the ariid catfishes, where the young retain yolk sacs late into juvenile stages, and many pimelodids, which may have elongated barbels and fin filaments or coloration patterns. Sexual dimorphism is reported in about half of all families of catfish. The modification of the anal fin into an intromittent organ (in internal fertilizers) as well as accessory structures of the reproductive apparatus (in both internal and external fertilizers) have been described in species belonging to 11 different families.

Catfish have one of the greatest range in size within a single order of bony fish. Many catfish have a maximum length of under 12 cm. Some of the smallest species of Aspredinidae and Trichomycteridae reach sexual maturity at only 1 centiimetre (0.4 in). The average size of the species is about 1.2–1.6 m (3.9–5.2 ft), and fish more than 2 m (6.6 ft) are very rare. The largest specimens on record measure more than 2.5 m (8.2 ft) in length and sometimes exceeded 100 kg (220 lb). The largest Ictalurus furcatus, caught in the Mississippi River on May 22, 2005, weighed 124 lb (56.2 kg). The largest flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, ever caught was in Independence, Kansas, weighing 123 lb 9 oz (56.0 kg). However, these records pale in comparison to a giant Mekong catfish caught in northern Thailand in May 1, 2005 and reported to the press almost 2 months later that weighed 293 kg (646 lb).

Catfish as food:

Catfish have been widely caught and farmed for food for hundreds of years in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Judgments as to the quality and flavor vary, with some food critics considering catfish as being excellent food, others dismiss them as watery and lacking in flavour. In Central Europe, catfish were often viewed as a delicacy to be enjoyed on feast days and holidays. Migrants from Europe and Africa to the United States brought along this tradition, and in the southern United States catfish is an extremely popular food. The most commonly eaten species in the United States are the channel catfish and blue catfish, both of which are common in the wild and increasingly widely farmed. Catfish is eaten in a variety of ways Catfish is also high in Vitamin D.

Catfish are easy to farm in warm climates, leading to inexpensive and safe food at local grocers. Ictalurids are cultivated in North America (especially in the Deep South, with Mississippi being the largest domestic catfish producer). Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) supports a $450 million/yr aquaculture industry.Catfish raised in inland tanks or channels are considered safe for the environment, since their waste and disease should be contained and not spread to the wild.

Sources: Microsoft Encarta