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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 74:27-36 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao074027

Ingestion and ejection of hooks: effects on long-term health and mortality of angler-caught yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus australis

Matt K. Broadhurst1,*, Paul A. Butcher1, Craig P. Brand1, Mark Porter2

1New South Wales (NSW) Department of Primary Industries, Fisheries Conservation Technology Unit, PO Box J321, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales 2450, Australia
2Ridley Aqua-Feed Pty Ltd, PO Box 187, Deception Bay, Queensland 4508, Australia

ABSTRACT: Ninety juvenile yellowfin bream Acanthopagrus australis were angled from holding tanks, allowed to ingest nickel-plated, carbon-steel J-hooks and released (with their lines cut) into individual experimental tanks during 2 experiments in order to assess their (1) long-term (up to 105 d) health, mortality and rate of hook ejection and (2) short- and medium-term (<42 d) temporal changes in health during hook ingestion. Equal numbers of control fish were scooped from holding tanks and similarly monitored in experimental tanks. Of 20 hook-ingested fish released during Expt 1, 3 died within 8 d, providing a non-significant mortality of 15%. Between Day 6 and Day 56 post-release, 13 of the surviving individuals ejected their hooks, which were typically oxidized to about 94% of their original weight and often broken into 2 pieces. At Day 105, there were no significant differences between the 20 control and 17 hook-ingested/-ejected fish in terms of their ability to digest and assimilate food (measured as changes in apparent digestibility coefficients), stress (measured as concentrations of plasma cortisol and glucose) or of morphological parameters that included weight (Wt) and maximum height (MH), maximum width (MW) and maximum girth (MG). During Expt 2, 3 individuals that still contained ingested hooks and 3 controls were sampled on each of 9 occasions between Day 3 and Day 42 post-release. All fish were sampled for blood cortisol and glucose and were then euthanized before being weighed and measured for total length (TL), MH, MW and MG. Hook-ingested individuals were also X-rayed to determine the position and orientation of hooks. There were no significant differences in plasma glucose between hook-ingested and control fish. Irrespective of the treatment of fish, concentrations of cortisol were elevated on some sampling occasions, indicating variable, acute stress. The MH and MG of fish were not significantly different between groups. Significant differences were detected for MG and Wt, with hook-ingested fish having weights similar to those of the control fish but a relatively greater MW (owing to stomach distension from ingested hooks) until 2 wk post-release, after which both morphological parameters generally declined. There was no significant temporal progression of hooks in the stomach of treatment fish; however, some hooks reorientated to positions that may have precluded passage along the digestive tract. We conclude that, for the J-hooks examined, cutting the line is an appropriate strategy that results in the greater majority of released hook-ingested yellowfin bream surviving with minimal negative long-term effects.

KEY WORDS: Acanthopagrus australis · Catch-and-release · Hook mortality · Hook ingestion

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