Fisheries Research Articles

Development of techniques for the collection and culture of wild-caught fertilised snapper (Chrysophrys auratus) eggs for stock enhancement purposes

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Journal Title

Fisheries Research


Print: 0165-7836 Electronic: 1872-6763


restocking, stock enhancement, spawning aggregations, egg collection, genetic diversity, otolith marking, pagrus auratus


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


Restocking or stock enhancement programs have traditionally relied on captive broodstock to produce individuals for release into the wild. However, this is costly and may limit genetic diversity of the resulting progeny. If fertilised eggs could be collected from the wild and individuals reared for release, the genetic diversity of the released progeny may be improved and associated restocking/enhancement programs may become more cost-effective. Snapper (Chrysophrys auratus: Sparidae), is an iconic recreational and commercial fish species across Australia and New Zealand and has been subjected to overfishing in many locations. Enhancement programs may be useful for increasing biomass in some circumstances, but would require careful evaluation of advantages and disadvantages before commencement. This study developed and optimised egg collection methods for snapper from its wild spawning aggregations in Cockburn Sound, Western Australia, and developed effective otolith marking techniques that would enable future monitoring of released individuals. The study identified the optimum sea conditions for collecting large numbers ( > 100,000) of eggs using plankton nets, in addition to the need for side-scan sonar to locate spawning aggregations, the distance from aggregations at which to sample and the water depth for plankton net tows. Large numbers of eggs collected in 2014 and 2015 were subsampled and visually screened for presence of snapper eggs using known egg diameters. Real-time PCR techniques validated visual identifications of snapper eggs and larvae, limiting accidental rearing of non-target species and reducing associated costs. Trials on larvae reared from these eggs, successfully determined appropriate alizarin complexone concentrations and immersion times for producing enduring marks on post-larvae otoliths. These marks remained visible in otoliths after 12 months, potentially allowing future monitoring of fish released into the wild. Delayed disinfection of eggs to the second day after capture resulted in improved egg viability. Following optimisation of collection and culture techniques, 208,000 larvae were stocked from a single sampling occasion in 2015, of which 19% survived to 55 days post hatch (dph). This survival rate is typical for snapper produced from captive broodstock. This study demonstrated that wild spawned snapper eggs can be captured and cultured in high numbers and future identification of recaptured released fish potentially conducted. An associated genetic study also demonstrated no loss of genetic diversity in cultured fish versus that of adults in the spawning aggregations. This technique has the potential to reduce both the cost of restocking/stock enhancement programs for snapper (and could be evaluated for other suitable aggregating species) and the risks of altering the genetic makeup of wild stocks.



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