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A Short History of Fish Domestication

A Short History of Fish Domestication
© Choubert,G.INRA
The Egyptians and the Chinese first pioneered aquaculture in around 2500 BC. The precise origins of aquaculture are unknown, although there are several theories, ranging from the concentration of fish in naturally formed ox-bow lakes, to their isolation in ponds and rice fields during the monsoon floods.

Aquaculture did not gain prevalence in Europe until the middle ages, when meat consumption was forbidden and pond-farming of carp became popular. A decline occured during the 19th century due to improvements in transportation, making fish more readily available and less expensive. In contrast, in North America aquaculture did not really take off until the late 20th century.
The growth of aquaculture is a modern phenomenon, with around 97% of species currently farmed having been domesticated since the beginning of the 20th century. This is in part due to advances in research and also due to the decline of fisheries and overexploitation of natural stocks, making fish a more scarce and expensive source of protein.
The first artificial fertilisation of fish (salmonid) gametes took place in France in 1842; and in 1866 in the USA and Norway for the cod. The emergence of fish farming in Europe at the beginning of the 20th Century was largely linked to the transfer of technology for the artificial reproduction of rainbow trout, which was achieved for the first time in 1874 in the USA.
Within the last half of the 20th century, consumption of fish more than doubled, from 40 million tonnes in 1970 to 86 million tonnes in 1998. As a consequence, aquaculture is the fastest growing agricultural sector, in particular mariculture, which is now reaching a peak and will continue to expand over the next few years, both in terms of diversification of cultured species and scale of production. In the early 1950's, aquaculture production amounted to less than 1 million tonnes; by 2004 it had reached almost 60 million tonnes. The Asian sub-continent accounts for over 90% of the total world production, with China alone producing 50%. Currently, around 16% of animal protein consumed on a world scale is derived from fish, with over a billion people dependent on fish as a main source of protein.

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