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Environment & Science

VIDEO: What fish barotrauma is, why it's bad, and how to stop it.

A rockfish experiencing severe barotrauma. Still from
A rockfish experiencing severe barotrauma. Still from "Is Barotrauma Keeping You Up? Try Getting Down with Recompression!"
Rockfish Recompress/Youtube

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Have you heard of barotrauma? It's a condition experienced by some deep water fish who rise to the surface. Marine biologist and Off-Ramp commentator Milton Love explains:

"Baro means pressure. And they have a swim bladder — a gas bladder inside their bodies in their gut cavity. The gas is under pressure. If you bring them up from 100 feet, or 200 feet, the gas expands. And it's like having a balloon inside your body."

The result isn't pretty. Especially if you're a rockfish. There are over 50 species of rockfish off the California coast--many are sold here and advertised as red snapper. Although the condition itself isn't fatal, it often means a death sentence for rockfish caught and released by sport fishermen in California. The fish has no way to get back down to depth, so they float at the surface. Inevitably, a sea bird will find and eat the unlucky rockfish.

But now the rockfish can breathe easier: Off-Ramp host John Rabe talks with Love about a cheap, simply solution for barotrauma, which affects rockfish — like snapper — caught by sport anglers. There's even a video to go with it to explain the process: 


Milton Love a marine biology professor at UC Santa Barbara--and also author of two books on the subject.