Venting or Rapid Recompression Increase Survival and Improve Recovery of Red Snapper with Barotrauma


2014, 2014


Drumhiller, Karen L.
Johnson, Matthew W.
Diamond, Sandra L.
Robillard, Megan M. Reese
Stunz, Gregory W.


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Taylor and Francis Open



Red Snapper Lutjanus campechanus are the most economically important reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico and a heavily targeted fishery. When brought to the surface from deep water, this species often suffers pressure-related injuries collectively known as barotrauma. This trauma results in high discard mortality and has affected recovery of the fishery. In laboratory experiments using hyperbaric chambers, we assessed sublethal effects of barotrauma and subsequent survival rates of Red Snapper after capture events from pressures corresponding to 30 and 60 m deep. We then evaluated the use of rapid recompression and venting to increase survival and improve recovery after release in this controlled environment. Vented fish in simulated surface release and rapid-recompression treatments had 100% survival. Fish released at the surface that were not vented had 67% survival after decompression from 30 m but only 17% survival from 60 m, while nonvented rapidly recompressed fish had 100% survival from 30 m and 83% survival from 60 m. Fish that were vented upon release at the surface showed significantly better ability to achieve an upright orientation and evade a simulated predator. Results showed clear benefits of venting or recompression. Our data also show strong depth effects resulting in increased barotrauma injuries, more impaired reflexes, and greater mortality as depth increases. Overall, our data support venting or rapid recompression as effective tools for alleviating barotrauma symptoms, improving predator evasion, and increasing overall survival.Received January 31, 2014; accepted April 7, 2014