California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Rockfish Barotrauma Information

Photograph provided by Daniel Gotshall
What is Barotrama?

All rockfishes possess a closed swim bladder (a gas-filled organ that regulates buoyancy). When fish are brought up from depth, decreasing pressure allows the gas to expand which may cause injury and prevent the fish from returning to depth under its own power. Visible symptoms of gas expansion include a swollen and tight belly, stomach protruding past the gullet and into the mouth, and distended and/or "crystallized" eyes. Miraculously, many rockfish can recover from barotrauma if they are properly released to their respective depths as soon as possible. For more information on barotrauma and techniques and tips to properly release rockfish please refer to the Bring that Rockfish Down brochure.