Barotrauma and Reproduction

Can rockfish successfully reproduce after they experience barotrauma and are recompressed?

A lab study with Rosy Rockfish suggests the answer is yes!

Researchers from UC Santa Cruz, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have successfully caught Rosy Rockfish by hook-and-line methods and quickly re-compressed them in a fish hyperbaric chamber to study their reproductive ecology.  These Rosys were kept in the hyperbaric chamber for five days as the pressure was slowly reduced from 70 psi and brought to ambient surface pressure.  They were transferred to the NOAA lab where they successfully mated and reproduced!

Rockfish (genus Sebastes) are live bearers, which make them particularly interesting to study.   Barotrauma did not stop the Rosys in the lab from successfully mating, internally fertilizing their eggs and releasing live young!  Some of these Rosy Rockfish have been in the lab for over a year and have reproduced multiple times.  Check out the process in the following photos…


Rosys caught by hook-and-line in 230ft of water

Rosy Rockfish, a dwarf species, caught by hook-and-line in Monterey Bay in 230ft of water.

Rosys suffer from barotrauma

After capture they suffer from barotrauma.  This fish looks in bad shape, but it survived after being quickly re-compressed in the hyperbaric chamber.

Fish Hyperbaric chamber designed by Joe Welsh at the Monterey Bay Aquairum

This is a picture of the fish hyperbaric chamber designed by Joe Welsh at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The lower chamber is pressurized to 70 psi and fish are added into the chamber through the top.

Re-compressed and recovering in chamber

One of our Rosy Rockfish re-compressed to 70 psi and recovering in the hyperbaric chamber.

Group tank where the Rosys mated.

Once acclimated to ambient surface pressure, the Rosy Rockfish were transferred to the NOAA Fisheries facility. This is an image from the group tank where males and females mated.

Rockfish mate, internally fertilize their eggs and release live larvae!

Rockfish mate, internally fertilize their eggs and go through a 1-2 month gestation period before releasing live young.  This is a photo of a 1-day old Rosy Rockfish larva!


How long does it take for rockfish to recover their vision following barotrauma?

Click here for a study by Bonnie Rogers, M.S. (CSULB) on visual recovery of Rosy Rockfish following exposure to barotrauma using the fish hyperbaric chamber.