Pond Aquaculture: What is it?

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Pond aquaculture is the controlled farming of freshwater and saltwater fish and animals for food or human use. It is an ancient practice, with China and Indigenous Australians having evidence of pond aquaculture dating back thousands of years. Common species raised include salmon, carp, tilapia, and catfish. Aquaculture can put a strain on wild populations, but it also allows for a mostly closed system. Natural ponds that have been dammed up for aquaculture are of concern to conservationists due to the possibility of contaminants entering groundwater and disrupting ecosystems.

Pond aquaculture is the farming of freshwater and saltwater fish and animals for food or human use. Unlike commercial fishing, pond aquaculture creates a controlled environment in which fish, shrimp and other oceanic creatures are raised, farmed and harvested for sale. Aquaculture can be used to raise fish, shellfish and crustaceans for food or to raise ornamental species, such as koi fish or seahorses, for the aquarium trade.

Pond aquaculture is an ancient practice. In China, evidence suggests that people have been damaging waterways to create enclosed agricultural ponds for at least 4,000 years. Dating back even further, Indigenous Australians are believed to have built a highly complex system of canals to funnel eels from the sea into aquaculture ponds. Drawing on these ancient traditions, modern pond aquaculture remains one of the most widespread agricultural enterprises in the world.

Some of the more common species raised in aquaculture businesses include salmon, carp, tilapia and catfish. Shrimp, clams and prawns are also quite commonly farmed. In terms of world production, most aquaculture enterprises are located in China and Southeast Asia, but there are also large agribusinesses in Chile, Norway and the United States.

Aquatic farming generally begins with wild or purchased brood stock of a given species. Placed in contained environments intended to produce spawns, spawning occurs. The larvae or juvenile creatures can be placed in a separate pond or water system that promotes growth and maturation with as little risk as possible. Once fully grown, the creatures are harvested, or in some cases used as broodstock for another generation.

The good thing about farms is that they put a strain on wild populations. Overfishing has been a tragedy of the 20th and 21st centuries, putting many species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans on the brink of extinction. Pond aquaculture allows for a mostly closed system, where the wild population is only occasionally exploited for farming. Unfortunately, as a growing enterprise, some wild populations are still under strain as each new agricultural operation extracts wild species for the initial stock.

Pond aquaculture can rely on natural or artificially constructed trapping ponds for its livestock. Since most aquatic and marine species are extremely sensitive to changes in water temperature and composition, it is often essential to have full control over the mechanics of the pond. Filtration systems and salinity monitors are common parts of pond aquaculture. However, the mortality rate among captive animals can be very high, as many populations show a high susceptibility to disease.

Natural ponds that have been dammed up for aquaculture are often of great concern to conservationists. Since agricultural ponds are often treated with antibiotics and pesticides, there is a real possibility that these contaminants can enter groundwater and alter the composition of free-flowing water sources. Additionally, temperature-controlled or saline pools can disrupt the ecosystem of pristine waters. There are also concerns that genetically modified or mutated species used in pond aquaculture could easily escape and mix with wild populations.

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