With the stress placed on our natural resources, many fisheries increasingly rely on restocking from hatchery-reared sources in an attempt to maintain commercially viable populations. However, the mortality rates of hatchery-reared fishes during the period directly following release are very high. The successful development of restocking programs is consequently dependent upon production and release strategies that lead to improved migratory, anti-predator and feeding behaviour in hatchery fish. While relevant individual experience prior to release might improve performance, social learning potentially provides a process whereby fish can acquire locally adaptive behaviour rapidly and efficiently. It is now well over a decade since Suboski & Templeton (1989) raised the possibility of using social learning processes to improve the post-release survival of hatchery-reared fishes. This period has witnessed considerable progress in the understanding of how social learning operates in fish populations. We review new methods and recent findings that suggest how social learning protocols could realistically be applied on a large scale to enhance the viability of hatchery fish prior to their release into the wild. We also suggest a practical pre-release training protocol that may be applied at the hatchery level.
- Life skills
- Social learning