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Chapter: Aquaculture Principles and Practices: Reproduction and Genetic Selection

Control of reproduction - Aquaculture

In aquaculture, the main purpose of controlled reproduction is to achieve sexual maturation and spawning at the time of the year which is normal to that species.

Control of reproduction

In aquaculture, the main purpose of controlled reproduction is to achieve sexual maturation and spawning at the time of the year which is normal to that species. As mentioned earlier, some species will not breed in the confined waters of an aquaculture facility. In other cases, maturation and spawning are unpredictable, because of the culture conditions or environmental factors. Controlled reproduction can also be of considerable importance in advancing or retarding the spawning period as required. This can help in making available young ones at appropriate times or of appro-priate sizes. A higher level of reproduction control would involve development of the capability to mature and spawn a species at any time of the year, in order to enable continuous production and marketing throughout the year.


The two major types of control that are possible, consist of (i) manipulation of the reproductive cycle and (ii) induction of gonadal gamete release (ovulation and spermiation). The reproductive cycle is manipulated so as to have gametes available when needed. This may be initiated in the juvenile stage, or advanced or retarded in the adult stage. Altered gonadal gamete release can be achieved by hormonal supplementation, manipulation of environmental factors or the use of special selected strains.

In oviparous animals, embryos are dependent on the egg yolk for their nutritional require ments. Vitellogenesis, or the process of yolk deposition in oocytes, is a seasonal or cyclic phenomenon. All stages of it, starting with the mobilization of lipid from storage sites, the synthesis in the liver of a femalespecific glycolipophosphoprotein, vitellogenin, and its eventual deposition in oocytes are known to be gonadotropindependent.

The interaction between the brain, pituitary gland, testis and ovary largely mediates the influence of environmental factors on the reproductive development of finfish. The thyroid and interrenal may also have a less important role. The substance formed by the nucleus lateralis tuberis in the hypothalamus, which is responsible for such influence, is the gonadotropin-releasing factor or releasing hormone. In the case of mammalian luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), the releasing activities for these two hormones have been shown to be present in the same peptide, which consists of a chain of 10 amino acids (Schally and Kastin, 1972). The molecule is referred to as LH-RH. The presence of LH-RH has been demonstrated in certain species of fish (Crim et al., 1978) and it has also been demonstrated that in large doses mammalian LH-RH or its analogues brings about the release of gonadotropin.

Even though attempts have been made with salmonids, the induction of a completely new reproductive cycle has not yet been successful. Chronic administration of gonadotropic hormones can, however, initiate a normal reproductive cycle and assure its progress. By pellet implantation of hormones, it has been possible to advance normal spawning by one year in pink salmon. The release of gametes can be advanced by a single dose of hormone. Similarly, it has been demonstrated that hormone injections can induce late ovulations, as in brown trout, when maturity is blocked by adverse environmental conditions.

As mentioned earlier, the two major environmental factors that affect maturation and spawning are the photoperiodic regime and temperature. Although any definitive conclusions regarding the independent influence of photoperiodism have not been possible, there is enough evidence of the combined effect of these in several species. When, by manipulation of these factors, early maturation is achieved,

egg-laying can more easily be synchronized by hormonal injection. This helps in predicting ovulation more precisely and in avoiding ageing of ova, which may occur at high summer temperatures. There is considerable experimental evidence of the independent role of temperature in maturation and spawning. It is believed that spawning is timed to ensure that gametes are released into water whose temperature is within the appropriate stenothermal conditions for embryonic development. While the precise mechanisms by which temperature regulates reproductive development are not known, it is presumed that it acts as a triggering mechanism at the hypothalamic level or alternatively exerts a generalized stimulatory effect on metabolic rate. The influence of rainfall on the spawning of certain species, as referred to earlier, is also ascribed to the combined effect of temperature and photoperiod, plus the dilution of inhibitory elements in the water.


Another means of reproductive control, oriented to spreading egg production over the year, is through the use of selected strains for early or late spawning. Strains have been developed that spawn for much longer periods than normal for the species. There is also the possibility of using in a farm several strains,reproducing at different times of the year, in order to ensure the availability of young throughout the year.

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