Did you know that it is illegal to remove a billfish from the water if you do not intend to retain it? Many anglers are unaware of this rule, but a new study shows that it exists for good reason. This is because it has been shown that even only a few minutes in the air leads to a marked increase in mortality in white marlins. Learn more about why it is so important to leave billfish in the water in this week’s blog, below.
New Study Shows Billfish Should Be Kept in Water to Avoid Mortality
A few minutes is all it takes
We all know that fish are built to breathe underwater and that they cannot survive when exposed to air for very long, but can a few minutes really do that much harm? After all, if you make an impressive catch, it can be tempting to take a few selfies before you release it back into the water. Unfortunately, when it comes to billfish, there seems to be strong evidence that even in the time it takes to snap a selfie, an angler can cause life-threatening damage to their catch.
These findings were gathered by a graduate student at the Virginia Institute of the Marine Sciences who wanted to analyze the physiological effects of angling time on white marlin. She focused on marlin caught on circle hooks and broke fight times into three categories: less than 10 minutes, 10-20 minutes, and more than 20 minutes. They were then removed from the water for about 2 minutes in order to obtain a small blood sample and attach a satellite archival tag before being results.
Her results were decisive, and even fish that experienced fight times as low as five minutes showed increased risk of post-release mortality. While fight time did not seem to matter, 29% of the fish involved in the study died within 30 hours of release. Even those fish who experienced as little as one minute of air exposure showed an increased mortality risk, which goes to show that any amount of air exposure is too much and billfish should always be kept in the water unless you intend to keep them.
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