FISH HAVE RIGHTS?
2-foot-long fish flopping on the boardwalk was the biggest chain pickerel
I had ever seen. After a few photographs with the angler, my grandson,
we put it back in the stream and watched it quickly disappear. We wondered
if we might see it again.
fishing has become the norm for many recreational anglers. The fish
gets hooked, landed and perhaps measured or photographed, then released
alive. Some environmentalists think catch-and-release fishing has a
negative impact on fish populations, because a captured fish may be
more vulnerable to predation from being stressed or be less effective
at capturing prey. I have heard one suggestion that its mating success
could be affected.
some fish do not fare well after being hooked, examined and released.
But extensive research suggests that most recover and many that have
been tagged for identification in research programs are recaught weeks
or even years later. I know of no convincing evidence that recreational
hook-and-line fishing affects fish populations in any appreciable way
or that the health and well-being of most released fish are compromised.
But, as with most environmental issues, the answers are complex and
have not been resolved unequivocally with scientific research.
fish feel pain as we know it? Scientific research has led to two lines
of inquiry and interpretation. In one study the snouts of rainbow trout
were injected with bee venom. Not surprisingly, the fish reacted negatively.
When morphine was injected into the snouts, the fish stopped responding,
suggesting that bee venom was not enjoyable and that the morphine offered
this does not seem surprising, more surprising would have been no reaction
to the venom or morphine. And the reaction does not mean fish are smart;
even an earthworm would probably respond in a similar way, if you could
decide which end the snout was on.
have bashed the study by pointing out that trout do not feel emotions
because their brain is smaller than a red wiggler worm that anglers
use for bait. Their conclusion is that whatever discomfort a fish might
experience, they do not feel "pain" the way humans do.
and professional ichthyologists concur. In fact, an international team
of scientists that included not only fisheries biologists but also neurophysiologists
who study the brain came to the same conclusion in 2013. In short, fish
and humans differ dramatically in their physiology and brain (as well
as body) anatomy. For one thing, fish do not have a neocortex, the portion
of the human brain that feels pain.
cites research papers "proving that fish are smart," that
they are "interesting and intelligent animals" and that "fish
feel pain." I agree with the part about fish being "interesting
be able to speak English before full agreement is reached on the conflicting
positions being taken by animal rights groups and anglers on the specific
issue of whether fish feel pain. My suggestion for anyone concerned
with fish discomfort: don't go fishing.
important than the health and comfort of a single fish is the environment
in which fish live. Natural freshwater and marine habitats are threatened
around the world every day. Recreational anglers fight against aquatic
habitat destruction resulting from lax or nonexistent regulations that
allow environmental pollution.
are among the most ardent supporters of clean water in rivers, lakes
and coastal habitats. Recreational fishing creates a strong environmental
advocacy group that helps protect aquatic ecosystems. It also stimulates
the economies of tourist sites through angler purchases and fishing
fishing does more good for the environment and the participants than
it does harm to individual fish or fish populations. Anglers are dedicated
to the battle to ensure that we have clean waters and therefore healthy
fish. With that in mind, I'm looking forward to my grandson catching
that big chain pickerel and photographing it again, when it's even bigger.
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