Surviving the effects of barotrauma: assessing treatment options and a ‘natural’ remedy to enhance the release survival of line caught pink snapper (Pagrus auratus)



A new technique to ameliorate the effects of barotrauma was tested based on observations of pink snapper, Pagrus auratus (Forster), inadvertently piercing their everted stomach with their teeth and releasing trapped swim bladder gases. This technique was termed buccal venting and involved piercing the everted stomach protruding into the buccal cavity or out of the mouth with a 16-gauge hypodermic needle (a practice previously not encouraged). Short-term (~3 days) survival of buccal-vented fish was not significantly different from laterally vented fish nor untreated controls. Both buccal and lateral venting techniques were shown to cause no harm and allowed fish to return to depth. The short-term (1–3 days) post-release survival of line caught snapper was 88% with no significant difference in survival across three depth ranges tested (37–50, 51–100 and 101–180 m). Survival of sublegal pink snapper (<35 cm TL) was not significantly different (> 0.05) from that of legal-sized fish (≥35 cm TL). Healing of the swim bladder was observed in 27% of pink snapper dissected after ≤3 days in captivity, and healing of stomachs was observed in 64% of pink snapper that had been buccal vented. Relatively high post-release survival rates of line caught pink snapper may offer some protection for snapper stocks where high fishing pressure and legal size restrictions result in the majority of the catch having to be released.