Significance to humans

Because of their small size, most atheriniforms are not sought as sources of food for humans, though there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, some large piscivorous Odontesthes species support thriving fisheries in lakes and reservoirs in Peru, Argentina, Chile, and southern Brazil. Marine silversides are indirectly important to commercial fisheries, in that they are an significant food source for many larger fish species that are valued as food fishes. When they are directly fished, small silversides typically are used as bait or converted into pet food.

In contrast, the freshwater rainbowfishes, owing to their extraordinary diversity of colors, are valued highly in the aquarium trade. At present, most of the rainbowfishes sold in pet stores are captive bred, but in the recent past some species were fished heavily to satisfy the demands of mostly European and American aquarists. Indeed, consider the case of the Boeseman's rainbow (see species account), which is considered Endangered. During the 1980s, when the fishery was unrestricted, tens of thousands of individuals were being removed from the wild each month for export.

1. Celebes rainbowfish (Marosatherina ladigesi); 2. Boeseman's rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani); 3. Rheocles derhami; 4. Eendracht land silverside (Atherinomorus endrachtensis); 5. Flower of the wave (Iso rhothophilus); 6. Neostethus bicornis; 7. Inland silverside (Menidia beryllina); 8. California grunion (Leuresthes tenuis). (Illustration by Patricia Ferrer and Michelle Meneghini)

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