Cultural and socio-economic basis
Man depended on hunting and gathering for subsistence until the neolithic period. Fishing developed as part of this basic subsistence activity, but has witnessed considerable technological advances in modern times in methods of capture and utilization of aquatic products. Fish production from the sea increased at a rapid rate with the expansion of fishing fleets, development of efficient methods of fishing and improvements in processing and transportation of catches. Although new fishery resources were discovered, intensive fishing efforts began to show their effects on the resource base, and the increase in production, particularly of the more valuable products, has steadily declined. Overfishing and depletion of stocks have become a living reality and the need to enhance or create new stocks by human intervention has begun to be recognized.
Over the years, human societies have adopted forms of cultivation, pastoralism and ranching that were expected to stabilize production and bring it under greater human control. For various reasons, this type of evolution in the basic forms of food production has been too slow to occur in respect of living aquatic resources. Agriculture and animal husbandry probably developed from a need to adopt more productive means to feed increasing populations. In the case of fishery resources, the need to increase production was addressed by discovering new resources and by adopting more efficient methods of hunting and utilization. Further, unlike agricultural resources, common access rights prevailed in most situations. Conditions have, however, changed rather drastically in recent years. The methods so far widely adopted to obtain increased production are often proving to be counter-productive. Restrictions in access rights, brought about by the new laws of the sea, have affected the fishing industries of many nations like Japan. Increasing demands in foreign and domestic markets for some of the favoured species like shrimps, salmons, eels, sea-basses, sea-breams and tunas, and their decline or lack of potential for expansion of natural production, have created a situation where adoption of methods of farming and ranching have become logical and inevitable. Since most forms of aquaculture, either land-based or in the sea, can be undertaken within national jurisdiction, there are fewer chances of international conflicts relating to rights and ownership in culture fisheries, except possibly in ranching operations.
There are also other concurrent factors that have promoted enhanced attention to aquatic farming. One is the recognized need in many countries to achieve greater self-reliance in food production and greater balance of inter-national trade. Saving or earning of foreign exchange has also become an inevitable need for economic development. aquaculture has shown its potential to increase rural employment and improve the nutrition and income of rural populations, particularly in developing countries. The labour-intensive nature of certain types of farming and the opportunities for waste recycling and integration with crop and animal farming have made development agencies consider aquatic farming as particularly appropriate to developing areas.
Aquatic farming is also of special significance in fish marketing strategies. Production can be organized according to market demand, in respect of quantity, preferred size, colour, preservation, processing, etc. In many markets there is a special demand for fresh or chilled fish and it may not be easy for the fishing industry to adequately satisfy such a demand. Harvesting from farms can be regulated to meet this demand and make the product available during off-seasons in order to maintain regular supplies. The species can be grown to the size most preferred by consumers, when size restrictions have to be observed in capture fisheries.