Black Carp: Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment of an Introduced Fish

Chapter 9: History of Use and Culture


Use of wild-caught black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus by humans, for food and medicinal purposes, undoubtedly goes back thousands of years. Even though the species was not one of the first fishes cultured, the general practice of aquaculture (fish farming) in China dates back more than 3,000 years, and black carp became an important domestic or culture fish about 1,000–1,500 years ago (Zhong et al. 1980; Chang 1987). Realization that black carp also could function as a biological control agent, reducing disease by preying on snails, seems to have occurred in the mid-1900s (see Chapter 12), even though scientists likely knew that certain snails were vectors of disease much earlier. Black carp remain a part of capture fisheries in China and also in some areas where introduced (e.g., Kara-Kum Canal; Aliev 1976).

Some of the earliest uses of black carp by man were documented by Chang (1966) who reported that skeletal remains of black carp and other fishes, dating to the Yin Dynasty (before 1,000 years BC), were recovered from graves or kitchen wastes in Henan Province. In addition, bones of black carp were used as wine vessels and combs (Chang 1966). In parts of China and Vietnam, the gallbladder of black carp has reportedly been used for medicinal purposes. For instance, Chang (1966) noted that the “gall” (presumably bile from gallbladder) of black carp was recorded as a cure for eye disease. In their book on freshwater fishes of northern Vietnam, Chevey and Lemasson (1937) commented that in the pharmacopoeia of Vietnam, bile from black carp was used to treat eye problems, colic, and tetanus. However, other authors note that bile from this fish is potentially toxic, and they warn against consumption (Chu 1984; Chu et al. 1989). In light of that, Chu et al. (1989) recommended that use of the gallbladder as food should be done under the direction of a doctor.