Venting and Reef Fish Survival: Perceptions and Participation Rates among Recreational Anglers in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Fisheries scientists, managers, and industry have developed innovative tools and techniques to improve the survival of fishes captured and released in deepwater settings. Venting involves the insertion of a hollow needle to deflate a fish's swim bladder and is among the most widely promoted barotrauma mitigation techniques. However, its efficacy has been the subject of intense debate. In the northern Gulf of Mexico, venting tools are mandatory tackle for offshore reef anglers, but current mandates on usage are being reconsidered. We surveyed recreational and tournament anglers to understand the popularity and perceived effectiveness of venting and identify factors that affect these measures. Our survey results indicate that approximately two-thirds of anglers vent the fish they release offshore and most perceive it to be effective for improving survival rates. Among recreational anglers, we found that primary fishing locale (inshore, offshore) and experience were powerful predictors of perceptions and utilization rates. However, fishing experience did not appear to influence knowledge of proper venting techniques. While further ecological and physiological experimentation is needed to resolve many uncertainties that surround venting, our study demonstrates that angler perceptions and behaviors must also be considered and that aggressive education and outreach programs would be necessary to alter or improve current venting practices.

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North American Journal of Fisheries Management





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