It is sometimes difficult for people to sympathize with fish, but they are living beings with the ability to feel pain like other animals.
Fish and other ocean lives that humans eat are often the last thing considered when changing a diet to be more compassionate toward animals. This may be because of the idea that ocean life is abundant and inexhaustible or that fish are unfeeling or unthinking. Unfortunately for our oceans and the precious life within, both of these ideas are untrue.
- Fish feel pain: The latest research shows that fish experience pain and stress. In one study, fish injected with bee venom in their lips engaged in rocking and rubbing behavior linked to pain and, compared to control groups, waited three times longer to eat. While more research needs to be done to understand how fish process negative stimuli, we know that being damaged and unable to breathe is likely a painful experience for fish. Sadly, the U.S. fish industry slaughters more than 6 billion fish each year.
- Fish populations are down: The ocean is also being depleted of commonly harvested fish populations due to commercial fishing. In the last four decades, common fish populations are down at least by 50%. If less humans ate fish, these populations may have the chance to bounce back and avoid total extinction and ecological collapse.
- All ocean life is affected: Non-targeted ocean animals like dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, sting rays sea lions, and even whales are affected by fishing. Long-line fishing, huge commercial nets, and even smaller abandoned nets (called ghost nets) often catch and cause the deaths of these sea animals along with salmon, cod, tuna, and other fish humans commonly eat. It is estimated that 40% of a commercial “catch” is made up of non-target sea animals.
- Farmed fish are not the answer: Farmed fish like trout are fed with fish meal typically made from pelagic fish like anchovies and sardines. The sardines and anchovies are ocean-caught in the same way as other ocean fish.
Fish like tuna, cod, and tilapia are not the only ocean lives that suffer. 40% of commercial fishing nets’ catches are non-targeted marine animals including dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, and even whales.
Our coral reefs, home to millions of oceanic species, are dying at an alarming rate, largely caused by fishing and animal agriculture.