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

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.