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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 12:18 am | Mostly Cloudy 53º


Captain’s Log: Theft of Lifesaving Device Hurts Deep

Custom-made device helps nonkeeper, deep-caught rockfish recover from barotrauma

Doesn’t it just frost you when something is stolen, especially near this time of year?

Capt. David Bacon
Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)

Just when I’d like to be writing about frosty the snowman — who seems to have visited our coast plenty during the past week — I am instead compelled to share a story about something that frosts me: the theft off my charter boat of a lifesaving device. It saves the lives of fish, which are near and dear to my heart.

Some time ago, I worked with a friend, Bill Hopper of West Marine, to design what I call a “deep release device.” Bill then put it together for me.

It is an upside-down, weighted milk crate attached to 100 feet of rope. We use it to return nonkeeper, deep-caught rockfish to depths where they recover from the effects of barotrauma (kind of like a diver and the “bends”). A deep rockfish suffers from rapid pressure loss as it is reeled to the surface and needs to repressure quickly.

Studies have shown that these fish can be released to recover fully if released soon and especially if they are released well below the surface. By lowering nonkeeper rockfish 100 feet below the surface to release them, we are adding the equivalent of three atmospheres, which is sufficient pressure to reverse the effects of barotrauma. Fish are able to just swim away.

The deep release device is perfect for the job. My crew and I have released hundreds of rockfish in this manner, and it is something we feel great about.

This month, the device — stowed aboard my charter boat — went missing. I ask the person who took it to rethink the whole thing and return it to my boat, where it can continue to keep fish alive.

It isn’t complicated nor expensive to make, so people can create their own easy enough and maybe even think of enhancements to make it more effective or easy to use.

I would like to see every boat that fishes for deep rockfish to have one of these devices aboard so we can all be ever-better stewards of our resources.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.

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