Aquaculture is the generic term for all the activities of animal or plant production in aquatic environments. Aquaculture is practiced by the sea (we speak in this case of fish farming or mariculture), rivers, or ponds.
It relates in particular to the production of fish (fish), shellfish (shellfish), crustaceans (crawfish and shrimp farming) or algae (seaweed).
Aquaculture is one of the responses to overfishing and growing needs of fish. In 2008, it provided the world 76.4% of freshwater fish, 68.2% of diadromous fish, 64.1% of molluscs, crustaceans 46.4% and 2.6% of freshwater fish of seafood consumed by humans.
It is sometimes used for reasons other than food consumption, including, for example in Europe via numerous fish farms built from 1850 to 1870 in the Alps, providing fish restocking (or repopulation) of river or fishing lakes for recreational fishing, fishing competitions (with the risk of genetic pollution or dissemination of pathogens)… or in Japan for environmental reintroduction of shrimp or abalone where these animals have been overexploited or disappeared for other reasons (pollution, etc.)
Aquaculture appeared in Egypt and China in the fourth millennium BC. It could relate to the breeding of species for food, or for other reasons (fish ceremonial such as koi, production of tilapia and carp for food, or cultivation of aquatic plants such as ipomoea, eleocharis dulcis, water caltrop, and lotus).
The mandarins breeded crucian carp and created large fish farms. The breeding and selection of koi began more than two thousand years ago.
Extensive aquaculture existed in Europe since the Middle Ages, exercised in a variety of pools and networks of ponds, some as in the Dombes in France were periodically emptied and given for crops, providing an important dietary supplement for farmers and monks. In the Middle Ages, the monk Aquarius was responsible for fish farms that served food during Lent among others.
The rivers were local production sites, such as near water mills, dams upstream where the millers fed and attracted fish with their waste (rich meal worms and other invertebrates) including sea trout.
In the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, with the artificial reproduction (spawning induced by hormone injection or hypophisation), aquaculture production increased dramatically, faster than any other food production, especially for salmon and trout, for crustaceans, mussels, clams, and abalone in the 2000s. While global aquaculture production was less than one million tons in 1950, it is about 50 million tons in 2008. This increase has a direct environmental impact (e.g., destruction of mangroves to install shrimp farms) and indirect (through the production of edible flours for example, the fish meal, or by the use of antibiotics, hormonal treatment, or biocides).
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