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Even Our Fish Are Smart


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Even our fish are smart

QUEENSLAND is taking its smart state motto to new extremes, teaching hatchery-reared fish how to avoid predators.

The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries has revealed it's training threatened species like Murray cod, silver perch and the eel-tailed catfish to recognise predators.

The survival school is part of a $400,000 study being funded by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission's Native Fish Strategy.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin says the program will train hatchery-reared species destined for restocking campaigns "to seek shelter and avoid predators in natural freshwaters".

"This is the first project of its kind in Australia that will release trained fish in large numbers to the wild and is an extremely important one in the fight to conserve these fish for the future."

DPI&F fisheries biologist Dr Michael Hutchison says hatchery-reared fish don't have to struggle to survive in their enclosed growing environments "however this dramatically changes once they are released back into the wild and have to fend for themselves".

"Our studies and other research indicate that if hatchery-reared fish escape predation in the first 24 hours, their survival rates go up tremendously."

He says authorities hope to train threatened species to recognise predators and to react to them, as well as teach them how to recognise wild and live foods.

Fisheries scientists plan to install mesh barriers in tanks with the juvenile fish able to see predators moving about.

"We will be looking to develop a series of techniques where we can successfully train pond-reared juvenile fish to seek shelter to hide themselves from predators," Dr Hutchison said.

"In effect we want to set up a successful school with verifiable and repeatable processes so that hatchery-bred fish can learn, adapt and survive changes to their environments when they are stocked into the wild."

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