Fish are some of the most varied and beautiful animals on the planet. We have almost no idea what sorts of weird, whacky and wonderful creatures live in the depths of the ocean. It’s safe to say we know more about space than the deep blue sea! Yet, the human appetite for fish and other sea creatures is rapidly destroying our oceans and all the life in them.
Can fish feel pain?
Many people think that fish cannot feel pain. There is no reason to think this; it is simply a myth that has been passed down through generations. In actual fact, fish have very similar nervous systems and brains to humans and other land animals. Studies have shown that fish feel pain just like we do.
Therefore, when fishermen catch fish using hooks (which stab through the roof of the fish’s mouth), nets, or other methods, this certainly causes a huge amount of pain, suffering and fear for the fish.
How many fish are killed?
It is very difficult to count the exact number of fish that are caught because there is no authority monitoring overfishing out at sea. However, experts estimate that the number is somewhere in the region of one trillion – that’s 1,000,000,000,000!
The problem of ‘bycatch’ is a significant one: fishermen catch many species by accident (e.g., turtles, sea birds, dolphins) which they simply have to throw back in the ocean, whether injured or dead. We cannot count how many sea creatures are unintentionally harmed in this way, but it is likely a very, very large number.
How are fish caught?
One method is by deep-sea trawling. An estimated 25% of fish are caught by this method. Trawlers essentially scrape up the entire seafloor and devastate ecosystems by collecting everything they can – including many fish and sea creatures to be eaten.
Another method is long lining. As the name suggests, this is where thousands of long fishing lines with hooks all the way along are cast out to sea overnight. In the morning, they are hauled in.
The length of long lines cast out around the world each night is enough to wrap around the planet 500 times!
Protecting fish protects our oceans
Many people think that fish is a more environmentally sustainable option than meat from land animals, like cows.
In fact, there is no sustainable way to fish. Over 50% of plastic in the ocean is from fishing and the irreversible destruction of our ocean that this causes has terrible consequences for our lives on land.
In addition, overfishing is very common. Overfishing occurs where more fish are caught than are born. 63% – almost two-thirds – of fish populations around the world need to be rebuilt, according to scientists. This problem is only getting worse.
If we want our oceans to survive, we need to choose to stop eating fish and other sea creatures.