GROWTH AND AGE STRUCTURE IN CAPTIVE AND WILD STOCKS OF THE ENDANGERED WESTERN RUIVACO Achondrostoma occidentale (CYPRINIDAE)
Declines in freshwater fish populations are occurring at a fast rate, increasing the importance of ex-situ conservation programs supported by sound knowledge of population dynamics and life-history traits of the target species. We analysed the growth and age structure of wild and captive stocks of the western ruivaco Achondrostoma occidentale, a Portuguese endangered cyprinid, targeted for captive breeding and restocking since 2007. Specifically, we compared maximum size, longevity, and length-at-age among captive and wild populations, restocked and non-restocked. We found considerable variation in length-at-age and longevity between captive-bred and wild fish, with the former generally growing faster and living longer. Analysis of length-age distributions among wild populations suggested a positive effect of restocking actions in fish abundance. Results highlight the value of captive breeding for the conservation of endangered cyprinids, and reinforce the need for detailed data on life-history trait variation between captive and wild stocks to assess the efficiency of ex-situ conservation programs.