According to PETA, more than 100 million fish are killed every year in the United States alone by methods that include suffocation, freezing, and cutting their gills with dull knives and that’s because many people don’t know the most humane way to kill a fish. Fish may not feel pain in the same way as humans do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel any pain at all.
Cruelty towards fish is cruel towards living beings who deserve respect and humane treatment regardless of how they seem to us.
How to Humanely Kill a Fish
If you’re having trouble killing your next fish and would like to avoid being cruel or inhumane, here are a few suggestions on the most humane way to kill a fish.
Hook and Line
Hook and line is considered a good way. As you bring your catch in, run it through with a hook and quickly lift it out of its environment.
Although death comes almost immediately for fish pulled up by hook and line, it doesn’t hurt as much as other methods (such as dropping them on dry land).
If possible, place your catch back into the water immediately after dying. Many anglers say that way is less stressful for their catch. However, if that’s not an option, be sure to handle your fish carefully. It will still be alive even though it looks dead.
Remember to keep your hands wet so you don’t lose any scales or damage the skin. You can also rub alcohol on your hands before handling a live fish so it’s less likely to come off.
Freezing is an effective option when you want to know how to humanely kill a fish. While freezing doesn’t kill fish instantly, it does result in death in just about 15 minutes for most fish.
Frozen fish can be cooked as normal when you’re ready to eat them or you can defrost frozen fish and release them back into your tank (though most will have suffered brain damage from being exposed to subzero temperatures).
However, if you intend on releasing your frozen catch back into your aquarium or another water source, it’s important that you leave enough time for their bodies to thaw – about one hour per inch of thickness. Failure to do so could damage their organs and prevent survival outside of captivity.
Hot water works quickly when you want to kill fish humanely. It’s fast, too. Most fish are dead within two minutes of being dropped into boiling water (with one minute being plenty).
Start by grabbing your container; you can use anything as long as it has enough space for your fish and water (the bigger, the better).
Then just fill it up with cold tap water until it’s two-thirds full. Fill up another container with boiling water and bring that to a boil while you get your fish ready.
To humanely kill most types of fish, grab them behind their heads and lower them headfirst into the container with cold water. Let them sit in there for about 30 seconds. You’ll know they’re dead when they stop squirming around.
Quick and effective, shooting a fish with a shotgun is by far the most humane way to kill it. It’s fast and effective, usually blowing off both gills or damaging its brain.
The only real downside is that you have to be pretty close when you pull the trigger, something that can be dangerous when your enemy is an aquatic animal.
In fact, many sources suggest that you shoot at point-blank range. If possible, do so before tying your catch up (to avoid injury).
Never throw live fish in with other dead ones; they’ll just flop around and cause distress until they suffocate or starve. Be aware of local laws regarding fishing before you start shooting.
When it comes to killing fish, electricity is both quick and easy. All you need is a device that delivers an electric shock (such as those used for killing bugs) and some large-gauge wire. It’s best if you can also get your hands on rubber gloves, electricity can give you quite a jolt, too!
Wrap one end of your wire around the negative terminal of your battery, and run it across what will be the bottom of your tank. Make sure all other wires are out of the way.
The positive side should dangle in midair above where you want your fish to end up at the other end of its journey. Place your fish inside and touch it with the other end of your wire.
It will immediately stop moving, which means he’s dead. Just make sure you don’t touch him yourself while it’s still electrified or you’ll suffer a similar fate! Unplug everything once it stops moving so no one gets hurt by accident later on.
Whether you’re fishing in fresh or saltwater, gutting and bleeding out are two of your best bets when you’re looking for the most humane way to kill fish.
Gutting and bleeding or using the ikejime technique are considered the most humane way to fish because it’s quick and effective, plus both techniques prevent your fish from suffocating or getting eaten by seagulls.
Even better, you can do both techniques using nothing but your hands – although having a hook removal tool handy will help.
Shooting is also another humane tactic to kill fish, particularly if it’s done correctly. A shotgun must be discharged directly into a fish’s head. Shooting anywhere else can result in broken bones, which cause further suffering.
Another benefit of shooting is that it causes instantaneous death and doesn’t harm other fish or sea life nearby, as some alternatives do. Just make sure you aim properly so you don’t accidentally shoot someone standing on the deck!
If you’re squeamish about killing fish yourself, hiring a local fishing guide might be your best bet. You’ll likely have access to everything you need for an instant death (shotgun included) and may not even have to clean your catch once it’s dead.
Suffocation in Gravel or Sand
If you have access to gravel or sand, you can smother your fish in it. This is another most humane way of killing fish because they won’t feel any pain.
All you need to do is dig a hole, drop them in it, and then fill it up with sand or gravel. They will suffocate very quickly and most likely go peacefully.
The only problem with doing it in the sand is that if you get more than about four inches of sand over their heads, they could still come out alive from lack of oxygen. Gravel will work better because it’s harder for them to move around and dig themselves out.
It’s tough to find the most humane way to kill a fish, but you can try some natural methods. For example, when you kill a carp, it should be done in three phases.
The first phase is stunning with air or electrical shock to stop its brain from functioning, phase two is bleeding out, and phase three is freezing.
Just remember that no method will ever be truly humane, since fish don’t have any central nervous system. They only feel pain when they have nerves exposed, such as their gills.
So, if you do your best by giving your fish quick and easy deaths, you’ll be doing more than most anglers would do. And that’s something worth considering when you want to know how to quickly kill a fish.