While fishing off the coast of San Diego County, we frequently encounter rockfish with barotrauma. We know from experience, throwing these “bloated” rockfish back into the water will kill them. The crew of the Sea Star has been trained to properly release these fish.
Barotrauma is the technical term describing an injury caused by a change in air pressure, typically affecting the ear or the lung. With fish, it can usually be seen as bulging eyes and the stomach coming out of its mouth. This is caused by an expanding air bladder which was not decompressed. Simply throwing the fish back into the water will kill it because the air bladder will not decompress on its own.
If you and your group seem to catch a lot of rockfish, consider moving to another area. This is the best way to protect rockfish from experiencing barotrauma.
If you have to stay in the area but need to send the smaller rockfish back down, how should fishermen properly release one with barotrauma? Well the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a video on Youtube explaining how to do this.
We recommend watching this video to learn more about barotrauma!