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The effect of stocking with 0+ year age-class Atlantic salmon Salmo salar fry: a case study from the River Bush, Northern Ireland


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An enhancement programme based on stocking 0+ year age-class Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, conducted in the River Bush, Northern Ireland, U.K. over the period 1996–2005, was reviewed with reference to the performance and biological characteristics of wild fish. Wild ova to 0+ year fry (summer) survival was c. 8% with subsequent wild 0+ year fry-to-smolt survival c. 9%. Stocked unfed 0+ year juveniles gave c. 1% survival to smolt whilst fed 0+ year S. salar stocked in late summer exhibited survival at c. 5%. Stocking with unfed and fed fry contributed to increased smolt production and helped attain local management objectives between 2001 and 2005. Significant differences in biological characteristics were observed between wild and stocked-origin fish. Wild-smolt cohorts were dominated by 2+ year age-class fish on the River Bush whilst smolts originating from fed fry mostly comprised younger 1+ year individuals. The mean mass of 1+ year smolts derived from stocked fed fry was significantly lower than that of wild 1+ year smolts, although these differences were not evident between older age classes. Differences in run timing between wild smolts and smolts derived from stocked fry were also apparent with the stocked-origin fish tending to run earlier than wild fish. Although the stocking exercise was useful in terms of maximizing freshwater production, concerns over the quality of stocked-origin recruits and the long term consequences for productivity are highlighted.

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