Fertilizing water in an integrated fish and rice culture operation
Biotechnology - the use of biological systems or living organisms in production processes1 - has a wide range of useful applications in fisheries and aquaculture. It brings opportunities, for instance, to increase growth rate in farmed species, boost the nutritional value of aquafeeds, improve fish health, help restore and protect environments, extend the range of aquatic species and, improve the management and conservation of wild stocks. Some biotechnologies are simple with a long history of application; e.g. fertilization of ponds to increase feed availability. Others are more advanced and take advantage of increasing knowledge of molecular biology and genetics, e.g. genetic engineering and DNA disease diagnosis.
The field of genetic biotechnology similarly ranges from simple techniques such as hybridization, to more complex processes such as the transfer of specific genes between species to create GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Over the years our knowledge of fish breeding requirements has improved and the ability developed to induce breeding artificially, through the use of natural or synthetic hormones and/or environmental manipulations. (For example changing photoperiod or water temperature can induce some fish to spawn). These have been key factors that have facilitated the application of more advanced biotechnologies. Selective breeding, the maintenance of stocks genetically improved by chromosome manipulation, line crossing, and sex reversal all depend on the controlled breeding of farmed species. These improvements in reproductive technologies have also assisted aquaculturists greatly in their efforts to domesticate aquatic animals. In addition, by making it possible to remove the natural constraints and timing of breeding, farmers are able to mate many more species at times that are most beneficial, and thus help to ensure a steady and consistent supply of fish to the market.
1UNEP Convention on Biological Diversity 1994: "'Biotechnology' means any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use"