Many re-introduction programs used for conservation of populations and species threatened with extinction advocate the use of enriched rearing environments to train animals how to behave appropriately in the wild. Curiously, most of the current fish re-stocking programs have paid little attention to lessons previously learned in bird and mammal re-introductions. Many rehabilitation programs that use releases of hatchery fish observe higher mortality in released fish compared to wild, with most mortality arising shortly after release. One explanation for this mortality is based purely on selection processes; many hatchery fish normally selected out of the population thrive in the predator free, food-rich hatcheries. Alternatively, mortalities may be high because hatchery nursery environments fail to shape fish behaviour appropriately. Here, we empirically address the effect of enrichment in the early rearing environment in coastal cod (Gadus morhua). We find asymmetries in aggressive behaviour when fish reared in plain or enriched environments are allowed to interact. Furthermore, cod reared in standard, impoverished, hatchery environments spend less time in shelter, are more active, and show weaker anti-predator responses than fish reared with access to heterogeneous spatial cues. These results suggest that the constant, plain environments of fish farms may generate behavioural deficits that could reasonably be expected to be associated with lower survival in fish released into the wild.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology