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For immediate release: January 24, 2014

Anglers have more options to maximize survival of released fish

Starting Jan. 24, Florida anglers will no longer be required to have and use a venting tool
when fishing for reef fish such as snapper and grouper in Gulf of Mexico state waters.
Removal of this rule means anglers will have the freedom to determine how to best
maximize survival of released reef fish using devices they feel are appropriate, depending on
the circumstances.

Maximizing post-release survival of fish is important in marine fisheries management,
because it means more fish survive to potentially reproduce and be harvested in the future.

Venting tools are hollow, sharpened instruments (see picture) that provide one way to treat
barotrauma, a condition that occurs when fish are brought quickly to the surface from deep
water. The change in pressure from depth to surface can cause gases within the fish’s swim
bladder to expand, which can damage internal organs and reduce the likelihood a fish will
survive when returned to the water. Venting tools allow gases to escape from a fish’s body
cavity so the fish can swim back down to depth. While venting tools are still a useful way to
increase chances of fish survival after release, fish do not always need to be vented to
survive upon release.

Descending devices, which send fish back down to deeper waters, are another, more
recently developed alternative to venting that also can be used now to increase survival rates
among fish with barotrauma.

The requirement to have a venting tool was removed during the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Nov. 21 meeting, making state regulations consistent
with rules in federal waters.

Venting tools are not required in Atlantic state or federal waters.

The use of non-stainless steel, non-offset
circle hooks and dehooking devices are still
required in state and federal Gulf waters when fishing for reef fish. These tools minimize
handling time for reef fish, which aids in survival of the fish upon release.

Here is information about reef fish gear rules.

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