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Boating NZ - - The Catch -

nfor­tu­nately, while I would hope most fish­ers obey the law and re­lease un­der­sized fish, from my ex­pe­ri­ence many of them re­lease fish in such poor con­di­tion they are un­likely to sur­vive. These fish are wasted – lost to the sys­tem.

Out of ig­no­rance, or some­times pure frus­tra­tion, un­der­sized fish – and non-tar­get species too – are of­ten roughly han­dled, or kept out of the wa­ter for too long. Many don’t sur­vive the ex­pe­ri­ence, dy­ing im­me­di­ately or hours, days and weeks later.

The prob­lem is worse when fish­ing in deeper wa­ter, and not only for un­der­sized fish. I’ve writ­ten about this be­fore, but it’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly clear that snap­per (and many other species) pulled to the sur­face from deep wa­ter suf­fer the ill ef­fects of de­com­pres­sion.

The as­so­ci­ated phys­i­o­log­i­cal dam­age, called baro­trauma, in­cludes dis­tended swim blad­ders that can push the stom­ach out through the mouth, rup­tured swim blad­ders and dam­age to the fish’s in­ter­nal or­gans. In se­vere cases, the eyes bulge

air-freighted to Ja­pan. The ma­jor­ity of those fish taken from deeper than 20 me­tres, most of which had been vented us­ing a hy­po­der­mic nee­dle, died in the tanks, he said.

How­ever, there is ev­i­dence from sev­eral sci­en­tific stud­ies, in­clud­ing work in Aus­tralia ex­am­in­ing snap­per, that fish sur­vive baro­trauma af­ter vent­ing. Ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous stud­ies, the most im­por­tant thing seems to be to get fish back into the wa­ter fast and down to a depth of at least 10 me­tres, some­thing my com­mer­cial fisher with his hold­ing tanks was not able to do. See panel pre­vi­ous page.

When­ever catches of un­der­sized fish be­comes a prob­lem and/or catch and re­lease is not fea­si­ble, or at least not eth­i­cal be­cause fish are go­ing to die any­way, an­glers should take ac­tion. Stop fish­ing im­me­di­ately or move some­where else, prefer­ably to shal­lower wa­ter.

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