Abstract Stocking, transfer and introduction of fish are commonly used to mitigate loss of stocks, enhance recreational or commercial catches, restore fisheries or to create new fisheries. However, many stocking programmes are carried out without definition of objectives or evaluation of the potential or actual success of the exercise. This paper describes a strategic approach to stocking aimed at maximizing the potential benefits. A protocol is discussed which reviews factors such as source of fish, stocking density, age and size of fish at stocking, timing of stocking and mechanism of stocking. The potential genetic, ecological and environmental impacts of stocking are described.