The effect of fishing-capture stress on the oxygen uptake rate and swimming activity of the holocephalan Callorhinchus milii

Licia Finotto, Terence I. Walker, Richard D. Reina

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Overfishing, capture mortality, and consequences following the release of surviving animals represent severe threats to chondrichthyans. Although holocephalans are common bycaught and discarded species, other than postrelease mortality, little is known of fishing capture stress impacts. The stress response elicited after capture, essential to increase survival chances, is energetically demanding and affects the amount of energy available for other biological activities, with potential long-term impairments. We measured the effect of 30-min simulated gillnet capture on oxygen uptake rate (ṀO2), a proxy for metabolic rate and energy use, on recovery pattern, and on swimming activity of elephant fish (Callorhinchus milii). Immediately after simulated capture, Active and Inactive ṀO2, measured during swimming and resting periods, respectively, were 27.5% and 43.1% lower than precapture values. This metabolic decline is likely an adaptation for reducing the energy allocated to non-essential activities, thus preserving it to sustain the stress response and processes essential for immediate survival. Supporting this, after gillnet capture, animals decreased their swimming time by 26.6%, probably due to a reduction in the energy allocated to movement. After 7 days, swimming activity and both Inactive ṀO2 and Active ṀO2 returned to precapture values. Although metabolic decline may enhance survival chances, the associated decreased swimming activity might increase predation risk and slow the physiological recovery after a fishing event. Moreover, some of the activities involved in Inactive ṀO2 are fundamental for life maintenance and therefore its depression after a capture event might have long-term repercussions for life sustenance and health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-214
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • chimaeras
  • chondrichthyans
  • discard
  • energetic alterations
  • gillnet-capture stress
  • recovery time
  • swimming impairments

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