Moats full of fish: the history of aquaculture in Europe

It is common to begin articles about aquaculture with a mention of its long history. Evidence of its long history is often supported by citing mentions of aquaculture in writing in China from the 400 BC and depictions of aquaculture on Egyptian hieroglyphics. The focus is usually on the well documented history of aquaculture in Asia. I have not see as much written about the history of fish culture in Europe. A recent essay by Whit Richardson addresses this gap. It is filled with literary and popular references to Eurpoean aquaculture from ~100 AD through the mid 1800’s.

The article is well researched and includes hyperlinks to the references that are available online. The information provided reenforces the fact that aquaculture is not new.  It has been present in Europe in one form or another over the entire span of written history. References include the Canterbury Tales the harnessing of castle moats for fish production.

It is a very Eurocentric treatment of the subject, as a result, some of the generalizations need to be read with caution. For example, in his treatment of carp, Richardson suggests that carp were once popular but have fallen out of favor. It is true that in Europe, carp production is mostly limited to goldfish and koi. However, carp is still widely cultivated as a food fish in Asia. In fact, carp is still the dominant fish cultured in China. Since China dominates worldwide fish production, today, carp remains the single most widley cultured fish in the world.

When I read articles like this, I often find myself searching the web to locate the references mentioned. The hyperlinks included in this article made that easy.  I am looking forward to reading over the many great, historical references Richardson shares.


Photo source: