Life history responses of fishes to culture
The protected environment in culture permits fishes to reduce the proportion of energy normally channelled into the costs associated with competition for food, shelter and mates, avoidance of predators and counteracting parasites and diseases. The surplus energy so released is allocated to growth and reproduction, accelerating development through increased growth rate, earlier maturation and increased relative fecundity. Cultivators manipulate the rearing environment to remove seasonal variation in availability of resources, so that the fishes grow and develop through otherwise unproductive seasons. Such environmental manipulations exaggerate the basic accelerative effects. Since maturation deflects energy from growth, farmers also manipulate the fishes nutritionally, physiologically, hormonally and genetically to postpone maturation. As environmental regulators determine sex in many fish species, environmental manipulation in culture may have unintended effects on sex ratios. Mortality in culture should be very low, but survival of fishes released from culture is rarely as high as that of wild conspecifics. Finally, while short life‐cycles and simplified population age‐structures permit high rates of production in farms, they lead to ecological instability when the fishes are cultured for support of wild populations.
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