Total time: 1 hour
• Share experiences from working with fish during stocking;
• Provide opportunity for trainees to compare, reflect on and critique their fish handling techniques;
• Emphasize the delicate nature of fish and the importance of proper, gentle handling to maximize health, growth and, ultimately, yield and profits;
• Establish some guidelines for handling fish.
Overview: This discussion provides an opportunity for trainees to process what they experienced during the stocking of their ponds and to clarify and discuss what they learned about handling fish. By sharing their experiences, comparing techniques and having a chance to think objectively about what occurred, they can draw some conclusions and put together a set of guidelines they can apply to future fish handling situations. As in other processing discussions, having the opportunity to discuss this among themselves also serves to relieve anxiety for some trainees.
1. The trainer introduces the meeting by informing the trainees that the topic of discussion will be fish handling. They are told that they will have a chance to share their experiences and compare ideas. The trainer points out that for many this was a first experience in working with fish, and encourages the trainees to think about what they did and to critique their efforts. They should think about what they did that they feel was good for the fish, as well as how they could improve their methods and techniques next time.
2. The trainer asks the trainee panel (selected and notified prior to the session - see Trainer Notes) to come to the front of the room. Panel members each take a few minutes to describe, in detail, exactly how they harvested, handled and moved their fish. The trainees should be encouraged to think about this "from the fish's point of view", and to address what effects they think their actions had on the fish.
3. Allow the panel members an opportunity to critique their own actions, then ask for input from the other trainees. Ask the rest of the group if anyone did anything very differently from the panel members that they would also like to share. At this point, the discussion should be open and mainly among the trainees themselves. Some questions that trainers can pose to stimulate the trainees' thoughts and conversation include:
• At what points in the process of handling and moving fish are the fish most vulnerable?
• In what ways can fish be injured or stressed?
• What are the relationships between good handling of the fish and efficiency for the farmer?
• What were some of the best things you did?
• What were some of the worst things you did?
During this discussion, the trainers can bring up things they observed during the stocking process that the trainees did not mention and ask the trainees for their reactions. (Caution: if trainers do bring up examples of poor handling, do not mention the names of the trainees involved).
4. The trainer asks the trainees to take five minutes and jot down some of the most important points they now know about handling fish properly.
5. The trainer asks the trainees to contribute their ideas to put together a good set of guidelines for proper fish handling. As the trainees volunteer their contributions, a trainer records their points on newsprint. The newsprint list is then posted in the classroom for the remainder of the day so that everyone has an opportunity to copy it.
Resources and Materials:
• Blackboard, chalk, eraser (trainees may want to illustrate a method they used on the board);
• Newsprint, markers, masking tape.
• To avoid embarrassing trainees, or making them feel uncomfortable, select and notify panel members before the meeting. Choose trainees who, based upon observations by staff members, used a variety of techniques (both good and bad) when handling their fish. Also consider the trainees' personalities, sense of humor, and sense of perspective to be sure that they will be willing and able to relate their experiences openly, be open to criticism by the other trainees, and have the ability to laugh at themselves if appropriate, yet still understand and reflect the seriousness of the topic. Ask them if they are willing to be on the panel, rather than telling them that they have to be;
• The discussions should explore methods and techniques used during all phases in which fish were affected: seining, removing fish from the net, moving fish from one container to another, physically handling the fish with hands, weighing and measuring the fish, holding the fish while waiting to get more or while weighing them, moving the fish from one location to another, and introducing the fish into the new pond. All of these things should be examined from the point of view of the effects on the fish;
• One key point that should come out of the discussion that may not be immediately obvious is the importance of good planning and organization. Each person involved should know exactly what will be done at every step, and all equipment should be in good condition, prepared and in the best location to facilitate an efficient operation. The pond from which fish are being removed should be properly prepared (for example, one might choose to lower the water level); also, the pond into which the fish will be stocked should be prepared (sufficiently full of water, water quality and temperature should have been tested, etc.). This will eliminate unnecessary steps or handling, minimize movement of fish and will allow for the fastest and most efficient operation;
• Some of the key points that should be included in the trainees' list of guidelines include (but not necessarily be limited to) the following:
• Be well prepared. Have entire operation well planned and organized. (see note above);
• Use the appropriate equipment for the fish being handled. For example, choose the proper size mesh net to avoid gilling fish, use the appropriate kind of net, (such as treated nets for catfish, softer nets for small, scaled fish, etc.);
• Keep fish in water as much as possible;
• Keep fish in fresh, clean water (not muddy water from pond being seined);
• Handle fish as little as possible;
• Minimize number of times fish must be moved from one container or net to another;
• Wet hands before touching fish;
• Minimize amount of time fish have to be held in buckets or tubs and monitor them closely;
• Do not overcrowd fish in nets, tubs or buckets;
• If holding fish in a net, keep the net suspended in water and be sure fish are not rolled or crowded in the net;
• While holding fish in tubs or buckets, keep out of direct sunlight, covered and/or in shade to keep water cool;
• When weighing fish, weigh them in water (weigh container with water first);
• If measuring fish, keep board very wet and do it as quickly as possible;
• Acclimate fish before putting them into a different pond;
• Never dump or throw fish, tip container gently and allow them to swim out;
• Move as quickly and efficiently as possible, but remain calm, do not panic, and make the fish the first priority;
• As Dr. Clemens used to say, "Treat each fish as if it were the last of its species!"