On the relevance of animal behavior to the management and conservation of fishes and fisheries

Steven J. Cooke*, Heather L. Auld, Kim Birnie-Gauvin, Chris K. Elvidge, Morgan L. Piczak, William M. Twardek, Graham D. Raby, Jacob W. Brownscombe, Jonathan D. Midwood, Robert J. Lennox, Christine Madliger, Alexander D. M. Wilson, Thomas R. Binder, Carl B. Schreck, Robert L. McLaughlin, James Grant, Andrew M. Muir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


There are many syntheses on the role of animal behavior in understanding and mitigating conservation threats for wildlife. That body of work has inspired the development of a new discipline called conservation behavior. Yet, the majority of those synthetic papers focus on non-fish taxa such as birds and mammals. Many fish populations are subject to intensive exploitation and management and for decades researchers have used concepts and knowledge from animal behavior to support management and conservation actions. Dr. David L. G. Noakes is an influential ethologist who did much foundational work related to illustrating how behavior was relevant to the management and conservation of wild fish. We pay tribute to the late Dr. Noakes by summarizing the relevance of animal behavior to fisheries management and conservation. To do so, we first consider what behavior has revealed about how fish respond to key threats such as habitat alteration and loss, invasive species, climate change, pollution, and exploitation. We then consider how behavior has informed the application of common management interventions such as protected areas and spatial planning, stock enhancement, and restoration of habitat and connectivity. Our synthesis focuses on the totality of the field but includes reflections on the specific contributions of Dr. Noakes. Themes emerging from his approach include the value of fundamental research, management-scale experiments, and bridging behavior, physiology, and ecology. Animal behavior plays a key role in understanding and mitigating threats to wild fish populations and will become more important with the increasing pressures facing aquatic ecosystems. Fortunately, the toolbox for studying behavior is expanding, with technological and analytical advances revolutionizing our understanding of wild fish and generating new knowledge for fisheries managers and conservation practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Pages (from-to)785-810
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Ethology
  • Fish behavior
  • David Noakes
  • Conservation behavior


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