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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Hatchery tank enrichment affects cortisol levels and shelter-seeking in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

Näslund, Joacim; Rosengren, Malin; Del Villar, Diego; Gansel, Lars; Norrgård, Johnny R.; Persson, Lo; Winkowski, John James; Kvingedal, Eli


Stocking programs using hatchery-reared salmon are often implemented for augmenting natural populations. However, survival of these fish is often low compared with wild conspecifics, possibly because of genetic, physiological, and behavioural deficiencies. Here, we compared presmolt Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) from three different environmental treatments (barren environment, plastic tube enrichment, and plastic shredding enrichment) with regard to plasma cortisol levels, shelter-seeking behaviour, and fin deterioration. Basal plasma cortisol levels were higher in barren-reared fish, indicating higher stress levels, while no differences were found in acute cortisol response after a 30 min confinement test. Shelter-seeking was higher in salmon reared in enriched tanks when tested alone, but not when tested in small groups. Barren-reared fish had higher levels of fin deterioration over winter, potentially owing to higher aggression levels. These results suggest that enrichment can reduce the impact of stressors experienced in the hatchery and thus increase fish welfare. Tank enrichment may also be used to produce salmon better adapted for the more complex environment encountered after release.

Published in

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
2013, Volume: 70, number: 4, pages: 585-590