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History of Aquaculture

History of Aquaculture in Arizona

Aquaculture in Arizona High Schools


    Fish farming has been practiced for many centuries.  The ancient Chinese left records indicating that they were raising common carp more than 4,000 years ago.   Hieroglyphics in the tombs of the Pharaohs describe the farming of tilapia in ancient Egypt.  The Romans built small ponds for raising fish.  Although the practice of aquaculture has a long history, only in this century has this form of agriculture become an important supplier of fishes and other aquatic products.  Until recently there was no reason for intensive development of fish farming techniques.   There were abundant supplies of fishes and shellfishes from natural sources.   World population growth and increasing per capita consumption of fishes and shellfishes have resulted in over-exploitation of some species.  Increasing demand has stimulated the development of aquaculture.

    In the United States, aquaculture represents a relatively small segment of agricultural production, but this industry is relatively young and growing rapidly.  Per capita consumption of fish and fish products in the United States has increased more than 50 percent since 1970.  During this same period, world catches of wild fishes have not increased and in some cases have declined, while cost per unit catch has increased.  As United States and world seafood demand increases, aquaculture is becoming more important.  The aquaculture industry is the fastest growing sector in United States agriculture, increasing over 20 percent annually in the 1980s and early 1990s.

    Early development of aquaculture in the United States was stimulated by interest in recreational fishing.  In the late 1800s, federal and state hatcheries were built to propagate various gamefish species for stocking public and private waters.  Commercial fish farming began in the United States in 1853 with the production of rainbow trout.  Early efforts in the private sector were directed at raising fishes for recreational purposes.  Large scale commercial trout production began in western United States during the early 1950s.

    Aquaculture is defined as the rearing of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions.  Other species presently farmed in the United States include channel catfish, salmon, bait and ornamental fish, crawfish, shrimp, oysters and clams.  Other species such as tilapia, hybrid striped bass, red drum, alligators, white sturgeon and aquatic plants are also being farmed on a smaller scale.   All have considerable commercial potential.  There are other aquatic species with possible commercial potential.

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