At its Feb. 22 meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a rule to require the possession of a descending device or venting tool that is rigged and ready for use on board a vessel when harvesting or attempting to harvest, including catch and release, of reef fish in state waters.
This rule will also require the use a descending device or venting tool if a fish is exhibiting signs of barotrauma prior to release.
This rule is designed to increase the survival of released reef fish, a top priority management issue in the Gulf and South Atlantic. As reef fish are reeled up from depth, they can suffer pressure-related injuries known as barotrauma.
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These injuries include the stomach protruding out of the mouth, bulging eyes, bloated belly, distended intestines and inability to swim down independently. If not treated correctly, barotrauma can be lethal to reef fish.
Tools such as descending devices or venting tools can help released fish recover from the effects of barotrauma.
Descending devices are weighted devices capable of releasing fish at a depth that is sufficient to recompress expanded gas and help fish recover from the effects of barotrauma. Venting tools are sharp, hollow instruments that allow expanded gas to escape from an over-expanded swim bladder.
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Barotrauma mitigation tool requirements have already been adopted in Gulf and Atlantic federal waters. In Gulf federal waters, fishers have the choice of possessing either a descending device or a venting tool that is rigged and ready for use. In Atlantic federal waters, fishers are required to have a descending device that is readily available for use.
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