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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 250:263-278 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps250263

Pilot evaluation of summer flounder stock enhancement potential using experimental ecology

G. T. Kellison1,5,*, D. B. Eggleston1, J. C. Taylor2, J. S. Burke3, J. A. Osborne4

1Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8208, USA
2Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7617, USA
3National Ocean Service/National Marine Fisheries Service, Beaufort Laboratory, 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
4Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8203, USA
5Present address: National Park Service/Biscayne National Park, 9700 SW 328th Street, Homestead, Florida 33033-5634, USA

ABSTRACT: Stock enhancement is receiving increasing attention as a management tool to rebuild depleted fisheries. Unfortunately, proactive studies addressing the potential of stock enhancement to accomplish management goals prior to the implementation of enhancement efforts are uncommon. We outline an ecologically based, pilot protocol with which to address the potential of fisheries stock enhancement using hatchery-reared (HR) organisms, through trial releases coupled with laboratory and field experiments with juvenile summer flounder Paralichthys dentatus. Released HR fish did not persist in nursery habitats in which wild fish enjoyed relatively long residence times and high survival. Multiple lines of observations and evidence suggest that the relatively rapid disappearance of released HR fish was not a result of emigration. Caging and tethering trials, coupled with previously obtained behavioral data, suggest that the poor performance of HR fish in this study was a result of increased susceptibility to predation-induced mortality, as compared with wild fish. These results suggest that post-release survival of HR summer flounder might be increased by (1) improving methods of predator-conditioning, (2) releasing HR fish in sites that serve as natural refuges from predators, or (3) releasing fish at larger sizes. While poor post-release survival of HR summer flounder may limit the success of stock enhancement efforts with this species, we suggest that conclusions regarding the potential of stock enhancement as a management tool can only be made if biological information is coupled with economic information to predict economic costs associated with stock enhancement relative to costs associated with alternative management approaches.

KEY WORDS: Stock enhancement · Summer flounder · Hatchery · Wild · Growth · Predation · Survival

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