chapter  2
6 Pages

What is a fish?

WithMark Everard, Jack Perks

Fish are familiar enough in the windows of fishmongers, on our plates, in aquaria or garden ponds, as targets for our fishing interests, or else seen wild in our fresh waters. Some 32,000 species of limbless vertebrates found in aquatic habitats around the world are classified by science generally as ‘fish’. Fishes have enjoyed a disconnected relationship in public perception, as also in legal definition, with the rest of the animal world. Fish, under strict legal definition, are regarded principally as food rather than wildlife. In reality, fishes are indivisible and fully interdependent elements of natural systems. Take fish away and the functioning of the ecosystem changes drastically. One of the most frequent pair of terms that one may encounter segregating the fishes of Britain's fresh waters is a distinction between ‘coarse’ and ‘game’ fishes. These terms came into being during the late nineteenth century, prior writings referring simply to fish and the art of fishing.