This is the story of how human ingenuity was used to address a big issue causing rockfish fatality in fishing practices.
All too often we hear about the failings of technology in the environmental context — pipelines leaking, oil spilling out of petroleum tankers into valuable marine habitats, and so on. But it is also worth noting where human invention has worked to effectively address environmental issues. One such issue is the high fatality rate experienced by rockfish when brought to the surface by fishers.
Deep water rockfish experience an injury to the organs called barotrauma when they experience the change in pressure that can occur when they are caught by fishers and reeled to the surface. When a deep-water rockfish is reeled in from the depths, the gasses that are used to regulate their swim bladders expand in accordance with the change in pressure.
Symptoms of barotrauma exhibited in rockfish typically include protruding stomachs and bulging eyes. Most notably, rockfish experiencing barotrauma are too buoyant to swim back down and, even if released, will most likely die.
Rockfish are among the longest-living fishes and have been recorded living to around 200 years. They are valuable both to humans and to their ecological habitat.
However, many rockfish do not reach sexual maturity until they are well into their twenties. This, paired with the high mortality rate involved in even catch and release fishing practices, makes the sustainable management of rockfish populations challenging.
The good news: rockfish can survive catch and release if descended properly back to depth! Deepwater release devices can be both commercially purchased or created at home out of simple materials like milk crates. Check out this video if you are interested in seeing some rockfish release devices in action.
The technology that has been invented to release deepwater rockfish has been around for many years, but a relatively recent study underscores the effectiveness of this human-made solution. The study, conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, found that survival of yelloweye rockfish released at depth was 76% higher than the survival of fish released at the surface.
The significant success of deepwater release devices illustrates the positive impact that technology can have on environmental issues. For a threatened species like the Yelloweye rockfish, a 98% barotrauma survival rate versus a 22% survival rate represents a meaningful impact that achieves broad conservation objectives. Amidst the consistent flurry of disheartening current events, success stories such as these illuminate the potential of human ingenuity in addressing environmental issues and in creating a more sustainable future for us all.
What are some of your favourite technologies invented to address environmental challenges?
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