Pond fish culture and pond management in Czechoslovakia follows a rich tradition dating back almost 900 years. A strong upsurge came two centuries later, in the period when the construction of a whole range of large ponds was completed in south Bohemia. The ponds built at that time were complete pond systems, many of which are in use at present. The largest number and area of ponds were recorded in Bohemia and Moravia at the beginning of the 17th century when their total area was estimated to be at least 120 000 ha.
The period of the remarkable upsurge of this branch of agricultural production bears the imprint of the activities of a number of outstanding pond builders and pond managers, who gave rise to that unprecedented prosperity of Bohemian pond management (Fig.1). One of these famous men was master builder Jakub Krcín from Rozmberk (Fig.2) [1535–1604]. Jan Dubravius, pond manager, (1488–1553) was another outstanding man (Figs. 3–4). He was an excellent theoretician as well as a remarkable practical pond manager. His conclusions, particularly those concerning the rearing of carp fry, are used, with some modifications, even at the present time.
The Thirty-Year War period (1618–1648), and especially the 18th and 19th centuries, characterised by the intensification of agriculture and the development of animal production, resulted in the gradual seizure of almost half of the pond area. In 1788 the total pond area was still estimated at 76 000 ha, whereas in 1905 it had decreased further to 58 000 ha. Further reduction in pond area is ascribed to the increasing population and technical progress, resulting in the enlargement of towns and villages, the growth of the communication network and the conversion of some fish ponds to recreational water areas rather than to agriculture itself. Before World War II, Czechoslovakia had the largest number of ponds in Europe - there were 359.4 ha of ponds per 100 000 ha of cadaster area in Czechoslovakia, whereas Poland had 228.6 ha, Germany 131.6 ha, Hungary 93.3 ha, etc. Present statistics indicate that more than 53 000 ha are covered by ponds, the largest part of which is distributed in southern and central Bohemia and in southern Moravia.
The watershed of the Danube and Elbe river systems and the many ponds are of great importance to land-locked Czechoslovakia from the point of view of water management. Considering that 1 ha retains an average amount of 7 000 to 8 000 m3 of water (affluent), then it is evident that the reduction of more than 66 000 ha of pond area reduced annual water retention by almost 466 000 000 m3 of water. This was, among others, one of the reasons why in the years 1947–1950 Czechoslovakia renovated or built pond systems, particularly in the more arid regions, such as southern Moravia.
Almost 80 percent of the total area of Czechoslovak ponds are kept by the fish farms of the State Fishery Enterprise. The first State-owned pond farms date back to 1918. They were located on large country estates which were included in the land reform. The original ponds were gradually transferred to larger economic entities. At the end of the 1920s the total area of State-owned ponds was almost 12 000 ha.
The formation of a centralised pond management organization continued after 1945. The land reform was already finished and most of the private ponds were transferred to State ownership. The Trust State Fisheries was thus gradually formed as the basis of the present structure. The headquarters of the Trust are located in Ceské Budejovice. The Trust covers 15 farms specialising in fish culture and waterfowl breeding, and four plants for associated production and services.
The average area of an individual farm of the State Fisheries is 2 800 ha of ponds. Management is organised at three levels. The Trust directs and coordinates the production carried out by the farms in keeping with the overall requirements, annual and five-year production and financial plans. The farms which act as independent economic entities carry out and develop the assigned fish farming programmes with respect to actual production conditions, and put them into effect in their centres within the farm (three to five centres forming a farm).
The unification of a predominant part of ponds in a single economic organisation created prerequisites for the introduction of modern methods of large-scale fish culture and waterfowl breeding. For the past 25 years fish production has shown a higher than three-fold increase. Duck breeding introduced in the 1950s in some State Fisheries ponds has surpassed the production level of 75 000 metric centners (7 500 000 kg) of slaughter birds per annum. The development of the two branches of pond management is clearly shown in Fig. 5, representing the increasing trend in fish and poultry yields year by year up to the present time and the prospects of fish yields and slaughter duck production for 1975.
The analysis of this very rapid development in Czechoslovak pond management after World War II reveals the following four most important circumstances which exerted a positive effect on the favourable trend:
Permanent interest of the society in the development of fish culture and - in particular - waterfowl which was and is controlled by the price, subsidy and marketing policies of the Government.
Establishment of a unified centrally-managed organisation, the Trust State Fisheries, which provides organisational and economic prerequisites for systematic improvement and modernisation of fish culture and waterfowl breeding.
Wide enrollment of University and secondary school graduates and drop-outs in Czechoslovak fisheries. For example, each fourth-fifth worker on the farms of the State Fisheries Enterprise is a drop-out from the secondary technical school or a graduate from the University of Agriculture which has a department specialising in fisheries. (The independent four-year Secondary Fishery School in Vodnany has been in existence since 1920. The fishery specialisation course at the University of Agriculture, which follows the third to the fifth year of the University courses, was established in 1952).
Close connection of fisheries research with practical production. This is manifested in the search for the solution of topical problems and new methods for further intensification of fish culture. This aspect is of particular importance because Czechoslovak agriculture, including fish culture, has reached the stage of scientific and technical revolution in which science and technology exert immediate effect on the level and rate of progress. (The Fisheries Research Institute [Fig. 6] is a specialised institute under the Czech Academy of Agriculture. It was established in 1921 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1971).