Oral Presentation International Conference on River Connectivity (Fish Passage 2018)

Determining barotrauma in the Pictus catfish, Pimelodus pictus, experimentally exposed to simulated hydropower turbine passage (#99)

Luiz Silva 1 , Bernardo Beirão 2 , Richard Brown 3 , Ricardo Walker 2
  1. Charles Sturt University, Wodonga, VIC, Australia
  2. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Ecology Group, Richland , WA, USA
  3. Yellowbank Science and Engineering, Milbank, SD, USA

Hydropower development poses severe threats to the aquatic diversity and ecosystem services. One such threat is the exposure of fish to extreme conditions within hydropower facilities. Fish may suffer rapid decompression when passing through turbines or entering/inhabiting the draft tubes, which can lead to barotrauma and mortality. We aimed to evaluate the effects of rapid decompression on the Amazonian benthic species Pimelodus pictus (Pictus catfish), by simulating in hypo/hyperbaric chambers. The most frequent injuries in Pictus catfish exposed to simulated rapid decompression were swim bladder rupture, intestine rupture, internal haemorrhage and embolism. The occurrence and magnitude of internal haemorrhaging and emboli were related to the ratio of pressure change and the decompression timespan, while swim bladder rupture occurred even at relatively low ratios. Emboli was present almost entirely among fish with a ruptured swim bladder. Importantly, all fish were negatively buoyant prior to exposure to decompression, posing challenges to data analysis. Therefore, barotrauma studies with benthic fish species are deemed to be challenging and are likely to require the use of complementary approaches. Research is needed to understand the state of buoyancy of benthic fish in the wild and develop methods to accurately replicate these in a controlled testing environment.