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Pond aquaculture is the farming of fresh and saltwater fish and animals for food or human use. Unlike commercial fishing, pond aquaculture creates a controlled environment where fish, shrimp, and other ocean creatures are bred, raised, and harvested for sale. Aquaculture can be used to raise fish, shellfish, and crustaceans for food, or to raise ornamental species, like koi fish or seahorses, for the aquarium trade.
Pond aquaculture is an ancient practice. In China, evidence suggests that people have been damming streams to create enclosed farming ponds for at least 4,000 years. Dating even further back, indigenous Australians are believed to have built a highly complex system of channels to funnel eels in from the sea into aquaculture ponds. Drawing from these ancient traditions, modern pond aquaculture remains one of the most widespread farming enterprises in the world.
Some of the most common species raised in aquaculture enterprises include salmon, carp, tilapia, and catfish. Shrimp, clams, and prawns are also quite commonly farmed. In terms of worldwide production, most aquaculture ventures are in China and Southeast Asia, but large farms also exist in Chile, Norway, and the United States.
Water farming generally begins with wild or purchased brood stock of a given species. Placed in contained environments meant to produce spawning, reproduction occurs. Larvae or juvenile creatures may be placed in a separate pond or water system that promotes growth and maturation with the fewest possible risks. Once fully grown, the creatures are harvested, or in some cases used as brood animals for another generation.
The upside to farming enterprises is that they put less strain on wild populations. Overfishing has been a tragedy of the 20th and 21st centuries, putting many species of fish, shellfish, and crustacean on the brink of extinction. Pond aquaculture allows a mostly-closed system, in which wild population are tapped only occasionally for breeding stock. Unfortunately, as a growing enterprise, some wild populations are still put under strain as each new farming operation mines the wild species for initial stock.
Pond aquaculture may rely on natural or artificially built capture ponds for its livestock. Since most aquatic and marine species are extremely sensitive to temperature changes and water composition, it is often vital to have full control over the mechanics of the pond. Filtration systems and salinity monitors are common parts of pond aquaculture. Even so, mortality rates among captive animals may be very high, as many populations show a high susceptibility to disease.
Natural ponds that have been dammed for aquaculture are often of great concern to environmentalists. Since farming ponds are often treated with antibiotics and pesticides, there is a very real chance of these contaminants seeping into ground water and altering the composition of free-running water sources. Additionally, temperature or saline controlled pools may disturb the ecosystem of the undammed waters. There is also concern that genetically modified or mutated species that are used in pond aquaculture can easily escape and mix with wild populations.