Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 485–501 | Cite as

Otolith mass marking techniques for aquaculture and restocking: benefits and limitations

  • Fletcher Warren-Myers
  • Tim Dempster
  • Stephen E. Swearer


The use of farmed and restocked fish to supplement the worldwide human consumption of fish, recreational fishing stocks, and conservation efforts, is growing at a rapid rate. Yet, monitoring the benefits of using hatchery-raised fish for supplementation is lacking, often due to hatcheries not marking or tagging all fish prior to release, despite a range of easy to apply, cost effective and accurate mass-marking methods being available to mark farmed and restocked fish en masse. Here we review otolith marking techniques that have the capability of mass marking millions of hatchery-reared fish that are, or could be, used for monitoring and compliance purposes. The otolith mass marking methods consist of otolith thermal marking and a range of otolith chemical marking methods (tetracyclines, alizarin compounds, calcein, strontium chloride, stable isotopes of Ba and Sr, and rare earth elements). We assessed and compared marking technique in terms of (1) ease of application, (2) cost of application, (3) mark retention and detectability, and (4) fish welfare. In addition, we determine the suitability of different otolith marking techniques for mass marking entire hatchery populations whether it be for restocking purposes, or for identifying and tracing escapees from aquaculture facilities. We conclude that although some techniques have restricted use due to regulations, the majority of otolith mass marking techniques are simple, easy to apply, cost effective and highly suitable for long term monitoring of hatchery produced fish.


Cost effectiveness Detection accuracy Marking efficiency Mark retention Mark longevity 



Albert Shimmins Postgraduate Writing-up Award, Faculty of Science, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia. Australian Postgraduate Award, Faculty of Science, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia. Norwegian Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Fund (project #900710).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sustainable Aquaculture Laboratory - Temperate and Tropical (SALTT), School of BioSciencesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Research on the Ecology and Evolution of Fishes (REEF) Laboratory, School of BioSciencesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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