Barotrauma in the Gulf of Maine: Educating the Recreational Fishing Public on the Issues and Potential Solutions

Tuesday, August 19, 2014: 10:30 AM
301A (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Matthew H. Ayer , Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Gloucester, MA
Recreational anglers in the Gulf of Maine often discard several species of groundfish that exhibit symptoms of barotrauma.  While estimating the rate of post-release mortality (PRM) associated with barotrauma is certainly necessary, minimizing the impact of PRM may depend on convincing the public to alter their fishing practices. This project focused on educating the recreational fishing public about barotrauma symptoms as well as commercially available release devices that could potentially reduce the PRM associated with barotrauma. Recreationally caught groundfish on for-hire vessels were monitored for signs of barotrauma.  When a fish exhibiting severe symptoms was encountered (i.e., inability to re-sumberge), a biologist worked with the angler to return it to capture depth using a release device. High definition video of both the fish and device was captured throughout the descent and release. Anglers were shown this footage on the steam back to port and then surveyed to assess their understanding of barotrauma as well as their perception of the effectiveness of release devices. The goal of this project was to gauge the potential for anglers to adopt the use of release devices in the recreational groundfish fishery.