Recompression devices reduce dead "floaters"

Barotrauma can prevent the successful catch and release of deep-water snapper-grouper species in the South Atlantic. This is where gas in the swim bladder can over-expand when fish are brought quickly to the surface, resulting in serious injury and likely death to the fish, making them a “floater” if released in this condition.

There is nothing worse than landing a nice fish and being unable to release it alive due to barotrauma. These dead discards, as they are referred to by fishery managers, have to be factored into annual catch limit estimates, so reducing these discards is very important.

Venting the gas from the body cavity of the fish with a needle-like venting tool is one way to improve survivability, but venting must be done properly or it can further harm the fish.

Recompression devices, which take the fish back down to the bottom for release, show more promise in reducing dead discards from barotrauma.

This NOAA video shows how development of recompression devices in the Pacific can successfully address the barotrauma issue in deep-water fisheries, in some cases resulting in an 80 to 85 percent survivability rate from what was virtually a zero chance:

Alaska is now requiring use of these devices on charterboats fishing in deep water.

Last year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Snapper-Grouper Advisory Panel recommended that the council consider requiring these devices to reduce dead discards for both the commercial and recreational sectors.

We have joined the Advisory Panel in asking the SAFMC to consider requiring recompression devices in the snapper-grouper fishery.

It’s our hope that these devices are put to use soon in the South Atlantic to help end dead discards.

Tom Swatzel
Executive Director
Council for Sustainable Fishing

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