Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Effects of Barotrauma on Reef Fish

We all know not to take more fish then we need for a good feed, and most if not all fishermen and women take this seriously. Catch and release is a growing trend (some fishers we know do nothing else) and again,  most of us make an effort to release fish in the best condition we can.

One issue is releasing reef fish caught in deep water (more than 10 metres) as fish can suffer what is known as Barotrauma caused by the sudden changes in pressure during assent.

Research indicates that many Australia tropical reef fish species are unlikely to survive being released when caught in water deeper than 10 metres due to the effects of barotrauma.

Fish caught in water deeper than 10 metres can suffer the fatal effects of barotrauma as gases expand in their
bodies causing internal injuries, similar to a diver getting the bends.

Even fish that are returned to the water in apparently good condition may have suffered fatal internal injuries.

NT Fisheries has released some handy suggestions on ways to manage the effects of baratrauma on reef fish to increase the likelyhood of survival including:
  • Try targeting different species that are less susceptible to barotrauma (eg. mackerel, tuna, barramundi).
  •  Consider moving if you are bottom fishing in deep water and continually catching juvenile and unwanted species, instead of staying in the hope of catching keepers.
  • Learn correct release techniques as reef fish caught in shallow waters (<10 m) can survive if handled properly.
  • Consider using large non-offset circle hooks to help prevent the capture of smaller fish and decreases the incidence of gut-hooking fish.
For more information visit

Remember, do the right thing now, and we'll leave the marine environment better than we found it for our kids and grand kids.

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