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Conditioning to predators improves survival of stocked Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) fingerlings

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Hutchison, M., Butcher, A. and Norris, A. (2023) Conditioning to predators improves survival of stocked Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) fingerlings. Marine and Freshwater Research, 12 (12). pp. 1039-1049.


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/MF22242

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/MF22242


Context: Following recent major fish kill events, there is increasing interest in stocking Murray cod fingerlings to help fish stocks recover. Strategies that can increase post-release survival of stocked fingerlings are important for conservation stocking of Murray cod and may also have application to other species.Aims: The aim of this work was to evaluate whether pre-release predator recognition and avoidance training conferred a survival advantage on stocked Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii) fingerlings. Predator-free release enclosures were also evaluated as a method to improve survival.Methods: Fingerlings were trained by exposure to predators and skin extract. Fingerlings were marked with visual implant elastomer (VIE) tags to denote training status and release strategy (trained, untrained, soft release, standard release). Fingerlings were released at three sites in the northern Murray–Darling Basin. Marked fish were recaptured by electrofishing 24 h post-release and quarterly up to 15 months post-release.Key results: Trained Murray cod had higher relative survival than did untrained fish. The mean recapture rate of trained fish was twice that of untrained fish. Fingerlings released directly into the waterbody had significantly higher recapture rates than did fingerlings acclimated for 90 min in predator-free enclosures.Conclusions: Predator conditioning training provides a survival advantage to stocked Murray cod fingerlings. However, predator-free release enclosures conferred a disadvantage.Implications: Pre-release training of Murray cod fingerlings could be beneficial to conservation and recreational-fish stocking programs. We recommend stocking trained cod fingerlings directly into the receiving environment, rather than into soft-release enclosures, so as to maximise their chance of survival.

Item Type:Article
Corporate Creators:Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:acclimation, hatchery-reared fish, Maccullochella, post-release survival, predation, predator conditioning, stocking, threatened species.
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Aquaculture > Fish culture
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery conservation
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Fisheries > Fishery research
Live Archive:15 Aug 2023 00:42
Last Modified:29 Feb 2024 01:51

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