UF Researchers Try to Reduce Barotrauma Deaths for Deep-sea Fish

Randall Weiseman Aquaculture, Florida, General, Industry News Release

From the University of Florida/IFAS:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most recreational anglers who target deep-water reef fish in Florida recognize barotrauma symptoms, and University of Florida researchers think they can teach the other 30 percent to help save the fish.

By doing so, anglers would play a key role in sustaining the state’s valuable fisheries.

When anglers reel in their catch from deep waters, fish can suffer problems caused by gas pressure changes – or barotrauma. Often the gas-filled swim bladder of the fish has ruptured, releasing the gas into the fish’s body cavity. Symptoms of barotrauma include the stomach protruding from the fish’s mouth, bulging eyes, a bloated belly and distended intestines. Fish with these symptoms find it hard to swim back down to their natural habitat, and many die as a result.

Mitigating this condition may be a key to maintaining Florida’s fisheries, said Chuck Adams, a marine economist with Florida Sea Grant. The importance of reducing this source of mortality for fish is further underscored by a recent UF/IFAS report that showed fishing and seafood products have a $565 million-a-year impact on Florida’s economy. That report can be found here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe969.

To bridge the gap between what Florida saltwater anglers know about barotrauma and how to lessen its impact, UF researchers surveyed the fishermen themselves.

In 2014, they emailed a survey to Florida anglers with saltwater fishing licenses. Of the 739 who responded, 70 percent said they noticed some of the classic barotrauma symptoms, said Adams, who holds a dual appointment with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department and the Florida Sea Grant program. Adams worked with Sea Grant colleagues on the survey, the findings of which they hope will help fisheries managers better understand barotrauma and encourage anglers to use methods to release fish so they may survive the effects of barotrauma.