Supervisor: Grant E. Brown
Fish hatchery stocking programs, an example of conservation efforts involving captive breeding, continue to demonstrate low post-stocking survival rates during the critical post-stocking period. It is believed that predation of the hatchery reared fish highly contributes to these low survival rates. A commonly advocated approach to enhancing post stocking survival rates is to successfully teach hatchery fish to avoid predators through life skills training, yet such learned predator avoidance behaviour has yet to yield significant results. We take a different approach by looking to induce phenotypically plastic neophobic predator avoidance (the fear of all novel predator cues) in hatchery reared Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the hopes of increasing post-stocking survival. We are also interested in documenting the differences in behaviour resulting from induced neophobic predator avoidance. Our study looks to illustrate the possible implications of behavioural responses in conservation practices involving captive breeding. Specifically, our study provides a possible solution to alleviating high post-stocking mortality rates of hatchery reared fish and may help contribute to conservation efforts of endangered species like the Atlantic salmon.