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This paper presents an adaptable content-based image retrieval (CBIR) system developed using regularization theory, kernel-based machines, and Fisher information measure. The system consists of a retrieval subsystem that carries out similarity matching using image-dependant information, multiple mapping subsystems that adaptively modify the similarity measures, and a relevance feedback mechanism that incorporates user information. The adaptation process drives the retrieval error to zero in order to exactly meet either an existing multiclass classification model or the user high-level concepts using reference-model or relevance feedback learning, respectively. To facilitate the selection of the most informative query images during relevance feedback learning a new method based upon the Fisher information is introduced. Model-reference and relevance feedback learning mechanisms are thoroughly tested on a domain-specific image database that encompasses a wide range of underwater objects captured using an electro-optical sensor. Benchmarking results with two other relevance feedback learning methods are also provided.