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Restoring depleted coral-reef fish populations through recruitment enhancement: a proof of concept

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To determine whether enhancing the survival of new recruits is a sensible target for the restorative management of depleted coral-reef fish populations, settlement-stage ambon damsel fish Pomacentrus amboinensis were captured, tagged and then either released immediately onto small artificial reefs or held in aquaria for 1 week prior to release. Holding conditions were varied to determine whether they affected survival of fish: half the fish were held in bare tanks (non-enriched) and the other half in tanks containing coral and sand (enriched). Holding fish for this short period had a significantly positive effect on survivorship relative to the settlement-stage treatment group that were released immediately. The enrichment of holding conditions made no appreciable difference on the survival of fish once released onto the reef. It did, however, have a positive effect on the survival of fish while in captivity, thus supporting the case for the provision of simple environmental enrichment in fish husbandry. Collecting and holding settlement-stage fish for at least a week before release appear to increase the short-term survival of released fish; whether it is an effective method for longer-term enhancement of locally depleted coral-reef fish populations will require further study.

Keywords: Pomacentrus amboinensis; behaviour; enrichment; recruitment; restorative management; settlement-stage coral-reef fishes

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: Australian Institute of Marine Science, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2009


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