I'm doing some research and advocacy for the humane treatment of wild-caught fish. Humane standards are more common on fish farms than at sea, so I am trying to identify some reasonable standards for what might be considered humane and also feasible for companies to carry out. One possible method of slaughter is killing fish through cold water exposure. Below is an exact quote from a representative at a commercial fishing company (which I won't name since I don't have the person's permission to share this quote yet). I would like to know if what the person describes might be considered humane. It's unclear to me whether these fish are actually dying of hypothermia, or if it's 'cold shock' or 'live-freezing.' I'm not even sure whether these three things are distinct phenomena, or different names for the same process.

"In regards to our fish, they are all dispatched in a method to reduce waste and limit stresses to the fish during it’s transition. A fish left flopping on the deck ruins it’s meat and stresses the fish out enough to change the flavor of the meat. We move the fish from the ocean directly into sub-freezing temperatures. In the case of tuna, that means a refrigerated seawater tank, with the salmon it’s a slurry of seawater and ice. Sardines are scooped out of the ocean in large nets and deposited into tanks of refrigerated seawater. The cause of death is hypothermia and has been shown to have a calming effect on the fish for the brief seconds before they pass."

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    $\begingroup$ Hi, and welcome to the site! It would be best if you could edit this with some more official sources than "a representative told me." Alternatively, an exact quote from the representative would be nice. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – rotaredom
    Jan 24 '20 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ You should state if they cool the water slowly or if they change them to a freezing tank. my experience of fish is that their breathing ability would slow down in the first 5 seconds and that their muscles would start to slow down within 5 seconds, they would be confused and would have the energy to get further than a few meters, which would be the extent of their startled reaction, and then they would go rigid within about a minute. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 '20 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this is an answerable question, except by (the ghost of) a fish that has undergone the process. And then we'd have to compare that to the opinion of the ghost of a fish that has been eaten by a bigger fish... $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 25 '20 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf — I'm not sure that is fair. At very least there is research on this subject such as this review about humane killing of farmed fish ... $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Jan 26 '20 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ @tyersome: But the point is that "humane" is a value judgement that can really only be made by the fish. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 26 '20 at 2:10

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