To satisfy increasing demands for fish as food, progress must occur towards greater aquaculture productivity whilst retaining the wild and farmed genetic resources that underpin global fish production. We review the main selection methods that have been developed for genetic improvement in aquaculture, and discuss their virtues and shortcomings. Examples of the application of mass, cohort, within family, and combined between-family and within-family selection are given. In addition, we review the manner in which fish genetic resources can be lost at the intra-specific, species and ecosystem levels and discuss options to best prevent this. We illustrate that fundamental principles of genetic management are common in the implementation of both selective breeding and conservation programmes, and should be emphasized in capacity development efforts. We highlight the value of applied genetics approaches for increasing aquaculture productivity and the conservation of fish genetic resources.