A fish hatchery is a "place for artificial breeding, hatching and rearing through the early life stages of animals, finfish and shellfish in particular". Hatcheries produce larval and juvenile fish (and shellfish and crustaceans) primarily to support the aquaculture industry where they are transferred to on-growing systems i.e. fish farms to reach harvest size. Some species that are commonly raised in hatcheries include Pacific oysters, shrimp, Indian prawns, salmon, tilapia and scallops. The value of global aquaculture production is estimated to be US$98.4 billion in 2008 with China significantly dominating the market, however the value of aquaculture hatchery and nursery production has yet to be estimated. Additional hatchery production for small-scale domestic uses, which is particularly prevalent in South-East Asia or for conservation programmes, has also yet to be quantified.
There is much interest in supplementing exploited stocks of fish by releasing juveniles that may be wild caught and reared in nurseries before transplanting, or produced solely within a hatchery. Culture of finfish larvae has been utilised extensively in the United States in stock enhancement efforts to replenish natural populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have established a National Fish Hatchery System to support the conservation of native fish species.
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