Behavior of Nine Species of Pacific Rockfish after Hook-and-Line Capture, Recompression, and Release

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  • We evaluated the effect of barotrauma on the behavior of nine species of Pacific rockfish Sebastes spp. after hook-and-line capture and release using a video-equipped underwater release cage. Sampling was conducted across a range of bottom depths (12-194 m), mostly where barotrauma resulting from an expanded swim bladder and gaseous release of dissolved blood gases would be expected. Behavioral impairment from barotrauma was depth related but highly species specific. Increased depth of capture was associated with lower behavioral scores for black rockfish S. melanops, blue rockfish S. mystinus, and yelloweye rockfish S. ruberrimus, but not for canary rockfish S. pinniger. Behaviorally impaired fish showed a decreased ability to maintain vertical orientation and were slower in exiting the release cage. Species differed in the degree of behavioral impairment resulting from barotrauma and in how rapidly behavioral impairment increased with depth of capture. When captured at depths between 40 and 99 m, blue rockfish showed the most serious behavioral impairment, 8 of 18 (44%) failing to swim away at the time of release and simply drifting off in a sideways or upside-down posture. In the same depth range all of the other species sampled showed only moderate behavioral impairment, which is indicative of some potential for survival after discard by the fishery. Surface observations of the external signs of barotrauma were variable among species and were poor indicators of which species would show behavioral impairment upon release at depth. Within individual species, however, the external signs of barotrauma were associated with an increased probability of behavioral impairment at time of release.
  • Keywords: barotrauma, survival, Pacific rockfish
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  • Hannah, R. W., & Matteson, K. M. Behavior of nine species of Pacific rockfish after hook-and-line capture, recompression, and release. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 136(1), 24-33.
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  • 136
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