UW-Stevens Point: Online courses about fish health for fish farmers and pond owners

Fish farmers and pond owners in Wisconsin and elsewhere can take free online courses in fish health in what University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Professor Chris Hartleb says is the first effort of its kind in the nation.

Hartleb, co-director of the UW-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield, developed the courses along with Myron Kebus of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection and Jeannette McDonald, director of the Technology for Learning Center in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Fish farmers and pond owners are the first line of defense for preventing aquatic diseases from infecting their fish or spreading to other farms or ponds,” said Hartleb. “With the recent occurrence of viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a deadly disease to many native fish in the Great Lakes, the importance of disease detection and prevention has never been greater.

“Traditionally, disease detection and management was handled by trained fish veterinarians,” Hartleb said, “but the process usually resulted in more questions than answers and a bit of skepticism by the fish farmers. By involving the fish farmer or pond owner in the fish health management process from the start, we hope to answer many of those questions and remove any mysticism.”

Six courses are available at VetMedCE.org: Introduction to Fish Health for Producers, Risk Management and Biosecurity, Water Quality, Preparing for Fish Health Inspections, Understanding Fish Health Assessments, and Case Studies. The courses cover how water quality affects fish health, how to prevent disease introduction, what to look for when buying fish, and how to balance oxygen, ammonia and pH levels. Even pond owners who keep fish only for their own use can benefit.

For the first year, those who sign up and complete a pre-survey can take the courses for free (continuing education credits are also available at a cost). To take the free program, click on the survey link on the course homepage, copy the access code from the bottom of the survey, click “register” and paste the access code into the field on the right side of the course homepage.

“We feel there’s a demand for fish health management, because throughout the country fish farmers have fish health work done on their farms, but they struggle to understand some aspects of it,” Kebus said. “This will help them understand and use the results of water quality and fish health testing to improve their bottom lines.”

This new online program is the most recent addition to the UW-Stevens Point aquaculture program that conducts applied research, demonstration, education and outreach to current fish farmers and those interested in aquaculture and raising fish. More information at http://aquaculture.uwsp.edu.