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Return 'Em Right: Empowering Anglers to Save Fish from Barotrauma

June 09, 2022

Hear how a federal program is providing free gear and training to anglers to reduce barotrauma in Gulf of Mexico reef fisheries.

An angler holds a fish, its mouth open and air bladder inflated from barotrauma. Barotrauma expands gasses in a fish causing the air bladder and other organs to expand as well, making it difficult for fish to swim after release. Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Florida SeaGrant

In this episode of Dive In with NOAA Fisheries, we're talking with experts about barotrauma—a pressure-related injury that fish experience when being reeled up from the surface. Besides being pretty unpleasantor even deadlyfor the fish, it can seriously damage the whole health of a fishery. That's where the Return 'Em Right program comes in: it's providing free training on the best practices for releasing fish suffering from barotrauma. And for anglers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, it's providing free and ready-to-use gear that will help save these fish for another day. It's also helping Gulf fisheries recover after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A fish is led underwater with a device attached to its mouth to help guide it back to depth.
Descending devices help fish overcome buoyancy and symptoms of barotrauma by releasing them at depth. Credit: Return 'Em Right

We talk to Nick Haddad, the Sustainable Fisheries Communications Manager for Florida Sea Grant, one of the partner organizations responsible for Return 'Em Right. We also hear from Sean Meehan, the Southeast Regional Recreational Fishing Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries. They share information on how to access the online training, the best ways to deal with fish showing signs of barotrauma, and best practices for catch-and-release fishing.

Last updated by Office of Communications on May 09, 2024

Catch and Release