Recreational fisheries are increasingly important sectors of tourism-based economies. In the last decade, new recreational fisheries have emerged that target species of varying conservation status including vulnerable, endangered, and unassessed species. In Guyana, catch-and-release angling tourism has begun to target arapaima, a genus of giant air-breathing fishes. Given the uncertain conservation status of this species and that no information is available to evaluate the sustainability of this activity, we sought to describe the responses of arapaima to recreational angling. We harnessed tri-axial accelerometer biologgers around the trunk of fish that had been captured and released by recreational anglers, allowing us to monitor post-release survival and behaviour, including surfacing, which is essential for this air-breathing fish to recover from exhaustion. Twenty-seven individuals were instrumented (162 ± 25 cm), 24 of which were considered survivors (89%) during the 47 ± 35 (SD) min monitoring period. Fish that died were observed to drown soon after release (i.e. within minutes), not surfacing to breathe air. Supervised machine learning classification of behaviours using a random forest algorithm identified surfacing events with 80% accuracy (i.e. out-of-bag error rate = 20%), which we applied to unobserved data periods to estimate breathing frequency after release, along with overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA) as a proxy for activity. Neither mean breathing frequency nor ODBA were related to body size (total length), handling time (which incorporated facilitated recovery of individuals), nor time of capture (early or late in the dry season spanning water temperatures of 29.3–34.1 °C). The precise angling-related factors that led to arapaima mortality were unclear, but the frequency of mortality aligns with the mortality documented in other recreational fisheries. This mortality source can be incorporated into conservation plans and provide context to the impacts of recreational angling relative to the costs of legal or illegal harvest.

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Keywords Catch-and-release, Guyana, Overall dynamic body action, Species-at-risk
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Journal Fisheries Research
Lennox, R.J. (Robert J.), Brownscombe, J.W. (Jacob W.), Cooke, S.J, & Danylchuk, A.J. (Andy J.). (2018). Post-release behaviour and survival of recreationally-angled arapaima (Arapaima cf. arapaima) assessed with accelerometer biologgers. Fisheries Research. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2018.05.007