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

Authors

  • A. Heenan,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, U.K.
      Tel.: +44 131 6513631; fax: +44 131 6516464; email: adel.heenan@gmail.com
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  • S. D. Simpson,

    1. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, U.K.
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    • Present address: School of Biological Sciences, Woodland Road, University of Bristol, BS8 1UG, U.K.

  • M. G. Meekan,

    1. Australian Institute of Marine Science, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
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  • S. D. Healy,

    1. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, U.K.
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    • Present address: School of Psychology, St Mary's Quad, University of St Andrews, KY16 9JP, U.K.

  • V. A. Braithwaite

    1. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Kings Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, U.K.
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    • Present address: School of Forest Resources and the Department of Biology, 410 Forest Resources Building, Penn State University, PA16801, U.S.A. and Department of Biology, Bergen University, P. O. Box 7800, N-5020, Norway


Tel.: +44 131 6513631; fax: +44 131 6516464; email: adel.heenan@gmail.com

Abstract

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.

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