DAO 74:17-26 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao074017

Release method and anatomical hook location: effects on short-term mortality of angler-caught Acanthopagrus australis and Argyrosomus japonicus

Paul A. Butcher1,*, Matt K. Broadhurst1, Darren Reynolds2,3, Dennis D. Reid2, Charles A. Gray2

1New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Conservation Technology Unit, PO Box J321, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia
2New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre, Wild Fisheries Program, PO Box 21, Cronulla, New South Wales 2230, Australia
3School of Environmental Science and Management, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, New South Wales 2480, Australia

ABSTRACT: One field and 3 aquaria experiments were done to quantify the short-term mortality of yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus australis and mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus after being angled and subjected to 3 general handling treatments. Anglers were supplied with identical J-type hooks and asked to handle hooked fish by either (1) physically removing the hook or (2) cutting the line (5 cm from the mouth of the fish) and leaving the hook in. Some hooked A. japonicus were subjected to a third handling treatment where the line was cut underwater without exposing the fish to air. Technical and biological data were collected before all fish were released into sea cages and monitored for 5 d. Control fish were seined and similarly caged and monitored. Concentrations of plasma glucose and cortisol were collected from a sample of fish on the first and last day of the experiments. Significant predictors of mortality for both species involved the presence of blood at the mouth and an interaction between anatomical hook location and hook removal. A. australis and A. japonicus that had their ingested hooks removed experienced the greatest mortalities (87.5 and 72.7%, respectively). Typically, these fish suffered damage to their oesophagus, stomach wall and vital organs. Mortality rates of A. australis and A. japonicus were significantly decreased to 1.7 and 16%, respectively, when they were released with their lines cut, with some of these fish free of hooks after 5 d. In contrast, few mortalities occurred in either species when the hooks were removed or the lines cut on mouth-hooked fish or in A. japonicus when it was released with no air exposure. For A. australis, the field- and aquaria-based experiments provided comparable results in terms of identifying treatment-specific effects, but there were potential biases in rates of hook ingestion. Irrespective of the treatment of fish, all experiments caused physiological changes measured as elevations in either plasma cortisol or glucose. We concluded that anglers should cut the line from hook-ingested A. australis and A. japonicus, but remove the hook from mouth-hooked individuals to prevent subsequent ingestion. Further research is required to examine the longer-term consequences of these handling practices on fish health.

KEY WORDS: Yellowfin bream · Acanthopagrus australis · Mulloway · Argyrosomus japonicus · Catch-and-release · Hooking mortality · Recreational anglers

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