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Environment & Science

VIDEO: How to save the Rockfish from an awful death from Barotrauma

Dr. Milton Love in his office at UCSB Aug. 26, 2011. The author of
Dr. Milton Love in his office at UCSB Aug. 26, 2011. The author of "Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast" was in no danger.
Courtesy Milton Love

Off-Ramp commentator Milton Love, who is a marine biologist at UC Santa Barbara in real life, just wrote to me about an awful thing that happens to rockfish when they're caught by anglers. it's called Barotrauma.

If you bring a rockfish up from deep water its eyes bulge out, its stomach is pushed out of its mouth and, in general, it looks like hell. If you toss the fish back in the water it will drift away, like a spiny balloon, and get eaten by a sea lion or pelican.

That sounds awful! But there's good news!

Until a few years ago it was assumed that even if you could return the fish to the depth at which you caught it, the fish would die anyway. It turns out that this is not true and, in fact, if you can get the fish back down 100, 200, 300 or more feet down, the survival rate is pretty good. So, some of us created a video designed to inform anglers that there is a need to return a fish to depth and that this can actually save the life of the fishes that the angler either cannot keep ('cause it is against the law) or does not want to keep. My contribution was the rockfish puppet, voice, and dialogue.