Yo! Rockfish ReCompression Video – Funny and really worth watching


Are you a fisherman? Catch rockfish? Check out this newer rap video on how to get rockfish back safely into the water and save it. Remember that rockfish take a long time to grow, and they stay in their local territory. So it’s important to get them back in the water quickly. I was unaware that the recompression techniques can save even severely barotraumaed fish. Barotrauma often kills rockfish if not recompressed. Luckily we, and those fabulous little rockfish, can get down with our bad selves and the help of this most epic video montage. The following Rockfish PSA was concocted by the masterminds of California Sea Grant and NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

be sure to catch the rap at the end as well.

6 Responses

  1. It is good to get a bit of the history on how we got to the spot we’re in today. How did CA, OR, and AL get their marine reserve areas established? I assume that there were many of the same pressures, political, corporate, and local, against establishing “closed areas”.

    • It was a political fight every step of the way for OR and CA. Alaska had the support of commercial fishermen because they knew marine reserves would restore fisheries. Still many smaller artisanal fisheries people are still upset because they lost their favorite fishing spots. Fishermen, both sport and commercial all know fisheries are waaaay down and they know where the best spots are to fish. Any “closure” affects them directly for sport or financially for income. I am truly sympathetic because they all know a recovery period is required before populations recover and really start producing harvestable fish. I have attended meetings for public comment and they are truly vitriolic and totally filled with anger.

      In most cases, most state fish and game departments start with a crack team of fisheries professionals to design a network of MR’s (marine reserves) and then start a few marine reserves that are small. Slowly they work their way up to the required minimum for sustainable fisheries. A few states have offered financial incentives to help commercial fishermen thru the recovery period.

      After the crack team of professionals who design the network, the best of the states create teams of local fisher people who participate in an education and final design of each single MR. Those have produced the best results and the best design because local people are the ones who have intimate knowledge their immediate fishing grounds. Each MR is then 1/3 to 1/2 of each high biodiversity site. The fisheries then start to recover slowly. For some rockfish there will be a 60 year recovery period. Other shorter lived, easily reproducible species start to recover with each reproduction cycle – often as short as 5 years. Interestingly, each MR is unique and recovery is unlike other MRs.

      Norm Baker

  2. Thanks Norm for your insight! Great thoughts.

  3. This video is reasonably accurate and factual and frankly, I am pleased to see it released. It is a step in the right direction. Several credible authors and consultants were involved in its creation.

    However, according to the most hopeful credible research about 20%- 30% of rockfish that are subjected to this form of “catch and release” actually live to carry on a normal lifestyle. That is significantly better than 0% from fishermen who simply toss them back into the water. That is the good news.

    Here’s the bad news. Puget Sound Anglers and Coastal Conservation Association (both of whom are the equivalent of the NRA for recreational fishermen and strongly oppose ANY marine reserves), are heavily promoting these release devices as the complete answer to the barotrauma problem for rockfish. As straight forwardly simple and good as this technology is, it is not the complete answer to alleviating rockfish barotrauma. There are two problems.

    First, some research has shown that radio tagging released and “redescended” rockfish showed that 100% could not be found a month later. What happened to them is the question. Did they die after a prolonged period of attempting to recover? Did they swim away to different habitat as part of their seasonal biology? Or were they so debilitated by their barotrauma injury they were susceptible to predation by seals, killer whales, dungeness crabs, lingcod or sharks? These questions deserve some serious research and I strongly suspect that predators are the ultimate winners in that scenario.

    Second, these “descender” devices are a definite step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they do nothing to address the population questions surrounding endangered species status of so many of Washington marine species – which are mostly rockfish. Rockfish and many other marine fish species have been historically overharvested. Any vulnerable species (like long lived, slow reproducing, barotrauma susceptible rockfish) must have habitat protection so that it can engage in all the normal biological and genetic characteristics of that species. Modern fisheries management protocols have shown that traditional fisheries management techniques (like seasons for harvest, limits on size and number, etc.) in combination with a network of marine reserves are the best way to protect and restore our marine fisheries. Research has also shown that marine areas with high tides and tidal flushing like Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca only need about 10 – 12% of the management area designated as critical habitat for vulnerable species. That critical habitat is best protected within a network of marine reserves closed, or at least severely restricted, to all forms of fishing.

    Unfortunately the state of Washington is the last of all the maritime states and provinces in North America moving to protect endangered species in marine reserves. Here in the Pacific Northwest, CA, OR, AL and BC all have networks of marine reserves. WA does not. However, considerable progress is being made as we speak in the Rockfish Workgroup being conducted by NOAA and WDFW.

    Lastly, let me render an opinion. If the leaders of the recreational fisher people here in WA were really conservation minded, Puget Sound Anglers and Coastal Conservation Association would endorse the creation of a network of marine reserves as specified in the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan. They would stop whining to their membership about “closures” of areas to fishing. Modern research from the last 20 years shows that WA, after a recovery period for vulnerable species, will have enormously larger rockfish populations than we now have or have seen in the last 25 years in WA. This political controversy about “closures” is one controversy where the science is undeniable and exceptionally clear. If we expect to recover the populations of WA many endangered species, we need to protect the habitat of vulnerable species in a network of marine reserves.

    Norm Baker

    • Norm, thanks for your response. I don’t think that the practices detailed in the video will actually solve the problems connected with barotrauma. It is an acknowledgement of the problem. The best way to solve the barotrauma problem is not to catch rockfish in the first place.

      To that end, as your opinion states, much good would come from a series of WA marine reserves where fishing was not allowed. Increased fish populations, recovery of threatened species, and restoration of marine habitat would more than make up for the problems caused by the closures of areas to fishing. In the end, as fishermen from around the world have found, you can’t catch what is no longer there.

      • Could not agree more. Unfortunately, it is impossible to not catch endangered rockfish when pursuing legal rockfish or halibut or ling cod. Unfortunately all are delicious. Getting the recreational fish people to agree is what is going to be hard to accomplish on marine reserves. I have seen this first hand many times. Few people know that Coastal Conservation Association was formed many years ago by the owner of an oil company which morphed into Exxon. They have continued their financial support. When the recreational fish people joined CCA, one of the prerequisites for financial support (from oil money) was that there be no “closed areas” of the ocean – i.e. closed to oil exploration. CCA does do a lot of genuine restoration work in estuaries and river systems and especially good work on restoring sustainable fishing for marine species. Numerous examples could be quoted. But on the issue of marine reserves, CCA goes against the best of modern fisheries management protocols. Most unfortunate since they could benefit even more from restored marine fisheries.

        Norm Baker

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