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Keywords:

  • angling;
  • barotrauma;
  • exophthalmia;
  • recompression;
  • swimbladder;
  • venting

Abstract

This study assessed the effects of different retrieval depths (2, 10 or 20 m), surface intervals (none or 15 min) and release methods (untreated, vented or recompressed) on the incidence of external and internal clinical signs of barotrauma (ECSB and ICSB) and post-release mortality in golden perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson). Fish were assessed for ECSB before and after surface intervals and either monitored for mortality over 3 days in two deep cages or killed for internal examination. When all fish were left untreated, short-term mortality increased with retrieval depth from 0% and 4.2% among 2 and 10-m fish, respectively, to 19.2% among 20-m fish; while surface interval only affected the incidence of two ECSB (excess buoyancy and a prolapsed cloaca). Mortality was also greater among 20-m fish that were subjected to a 15-min surface interval and left untreated (22.2%) or vented (22.2%) than those that were recompressed (5.6%). Of the ECSB, only exophthalmia was associated with increased mortality, with half of the affected fish dying. However, many fish retrieved from 10 and 20 m also sustained numerous ICSB, including compressed gonads or vital organs and ruptured or collapsed, haemorrhaging swimbladders that remained deflated for up to 3 days after release.