Red Snapper Barotrauma

About this Project

An iconic Gulf species, Red Snapper suffer many pressure-related injuries (known as barotrauma) during fishing that may not allow them to survive catch-and-release. A species that supports highly lucrative commercial and recreational fisheries, Red Snapper are a vital commodity for coastal communities across the Gulf making sustainable management of this species of paramount importance.


Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) researchers are studying how season, depth, and other factors influence the severity of barotrauma injuries, and are determining the best release methods to maximize survival of these discarded fish and enhance Red Snapper populations. Research includes examining how certain tools may increase the survival of released snapper; estimating the rate of death in discarded fish; monitoring the post-release behavior of Red Snapper tagged with acoustic transmitters; and using hyperbaric chambers, which can control pressure, to simulate the effects of catch-and-release on these fish and how depth may impact their survival.


Research Objectives

  • Determining best release methods for improving survival in the recreational Red Snapper fishery
  • Researching how rapid recompression and descender tools can increase the survival of released Red Snapper
  • Estimating discard mortality and monitoring post-release behavior in Red Snapper using acoustic transmitters
  • Using hyperbaric chambers to simulate multiple recapture events and the effects of depth on survival



  • Drumhiller K.L., M.W. Johnson, M.R. Robillard, S.L. Diamond, and G.W. Stunz (2014) Venting or rapid recompression increase survival and improve recovery of Red Snapper with barotrauma. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 6:190–199


  • Johnson, M.W., S.L. Diamond, and G.W. Stunz (2014) External attachment of acoustic tags to deep-water reef fishes: an alternate approach when internal implantation affects experimental design. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society (In Review)


  • Curtis, J.M., M.W. Johnson, S.L. Diamond, and G.W. Stunz (2015) Quantifying delayed mortality of discarded red snapper using acoustic telemetry. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science (In Review)

Red snapper experience a suite of pressure-related injuries (collectively called "barotrauma") when brought to the surface during fishing. These may include the stomach everted from the mouth and bulging eyeballs.
Using state-of-the-art acoustic transmitters and receivers, we are estimating delayed mortality and monitoring post-release behavior of discarded red snapper in the field.
Red snapper are tagged with an electronic transmitter that measures fish activity and depth, which provides answers to numerous life history questions.
Using hyperbaric pressure chambers, we can stimulate fishing at various depths and the effects of multiple recaptures on fish survival.
New descender devices such as the SeaQualizerTM are gaining popularity as an alternative to venting practices.
Red snapper is an iconic Gulf species and our research goal is to provide the sound scientific data fishery managers need to better enhance red snapper populations.
Results from the acoustic transmitters provide acceleration and depth data allowing us to monitor the fish's activity post-release.
Red Snapper SeaQualizer Descend 2015 [VIDEO]


The Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation is a center at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies where Dr. Greg Stunz is also the Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health...


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