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Aquaculture for Stock Enhancement

Stock enhancement is important to the future of species such as this pink abalone hatched at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Pink abalone is a ‘Species of Concern’ while their cousins, the white abalone and black abalone are endangered. Because abalone move little during their lives, low populations lead to isolated survivors that do not effectively reproduce. NOAA supports and conducts stock enhancement research including abalone hatchery techniques and genetic diversity in wild populations. (Credit: John Hyde, SWFSC)

Regional Science Centers working on Stock Enhancement


About 80-90% of salmon caught in the Pacific Northwest and 40% of the salmon caught in Alaska are from hatcheries. These stock enhancement activities that contribute over 270 million dollars to the commercial fishery alone and millions more to the recreational fishing industry and local tourism. (Credit: Andrew Gray, AFSC)

Scientists and researchers use aquaculture techniques as a tool for stock enhancement of important commercial and recreational marine fisheries, threatened or endangered species, and marine habitats.

Stock enhancement (or “restoration aquaculture”) is the release to the wild of juveniles (fish and shellfish) raised in hatcheries. Stock enhancement is a management tool used to recover depleted species populations that have faced threats such as overfishing, habitat loss, or ocean acidification.

Hatcheries raise species from egg to juvenile, which are the most vulnerable stages in the life cycle of marine animals. Survival in hatcheries is greatly increased due to lack of predators and abundant food.

Stock enhancement methods have become more refined over time, relying on a great deal of research and planning to determine ideal locations, timing of release, number of juveniles, and genetic composition of the population.

NOAA is engaged in a variety of stock enhancement research at its regional science centers (see box). NOAA also supports research through grants and via partnerships such as that with the Science Consortium for Ocean Replenishment (SCORE) , a multi-state U.S. initiative for science-driven stock enhancement. A history of marine stock enhancement and a list of recent publications can be found on the SCORE website.

 NOAA coordinates with many partners on stock enhancement research and application for a variety of species including

The International Symposiums on Stock Enhancement and Sea Ranching hosts symposia every 4 to 5 years to bring together researchers interested in the efficacy of using aquaculture to help recover depleted fish and invertebrate populations. More information can be found at .

For more reading about stock enhancement, visit our library.