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Responsible estuarine finfish stock enhancement: an Australian perspective


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The responsible approach to marine stock enhancement is a set of principles aimed at maximising the success and benefits of artificially re-stocking depleted fisheries. The benefits of such an approach are evident in the 400% increase in survival of stocked striped mullet in Hawaii through refinement of release techniques, however financially or temporally constrained stocking programs in Australia have not adhered to all principles. A pragmatic approach to address these principles is proposed, using international examples and Australian marine finfish pilot stockings of barramundi, mulloway, sand whiting, dusky flathead and black bream. Biological ranking of candidate species by estuarine residency, a low natural-mortality to growth ratio, a large L and comparison by recreational value and available rearing technologies, show that mulloway, barramundi and sea mullet are ideal species for stocking in Australia. Australian intermittently closed opening landlocked lagoons and recreational fishing havens, especially near cities, provide experimental opportunities to apply this approach and stock suitable species through small-scale pilot experiments. This would allow evaluation of production and carrying capacity, and density dependent processes with respect to optimal stocking strategies unconfounded by emigration and commercial fishing practices. Twenty per cent of Australians fish each year, and harvest approximately 27 000 t of finfish. Stocking recreationally important species in Australia should give a greater financial benefit, which is spread across a larger cross-section of the community, compared to stocking to enhance commercial fisheries. The pragmatic application of the responsible approach, and stocking of fast growing estuarine residents into recreational fishing havens would enhance the benefit from marine stocking.