I caught a fish once; the hook went right through its eye. It was too small to keep and I was disgusted as I pulled the hook out, the eye came with it. I never fished again. Fishing friends told me not to feel bad, as fish don't feel pain; Jennifer Viegas at Discovery News says otherwise. She talks to Victoria Braithwaite, Professor of Fisheries and Biology, School of Forest Resources, Pennsylvania State University and author of "Do Fish Feel Pain?", who claims that fish do indeed suffer.
Salmon fishery via Celcias
Viegas quotes Braithwaite:
"We now know that fish actually are cognitively more competent than we thought before -- some species of fish have very sophisticated forms of cognition," she said in a press release. "In our experiments we showed that if we hurt fish, they react, and then if we give them pain relief, they change their behavior, strongly indicating that they feel pain."
She was initially drawn to the issue after reading about fish-farming concerns.
"By 2030, half of all fish that humans eat will come from fish farms," she said. "It seemed logical to me to care about fish, because agriculture in general is confronting animal-welfare issues. If we are concerned about animal welfare, we should be concerned about fish welfare."
The comments to the Discovery article degenerate quickly into a pro and anti vegetarian foodfight. But I don't think that is the main question, which is whether fish have a right to be treated humanely, instead spending their lives in tight pens, covered in sea lice and dosed with chemicals. Whether we should be as concerned about happy fish as we are with happy chickens and cows. Whether fish farming is not only unhealthy and polluting but also cruel. Braithwaite concludes:
"There is a perception that fish have simple brains and are incapable of feelings, and this has somehow made them different from birds and mammals when it comes to our concerns for their welfare," she said. "But we now have strong evidence that suggests fish are more intelligent than previously thought and their behavior more complex."
Jennifer Viegas concludes with a video of a Chinese fish delicacy, where a fish is partially fried and eaten while still alive. I couldn't watch more than ten seconds.
More on fish farming:
Ocean Fish Farms Won't Save Wild Fish & Can Easily Destroy Them
Mark Bittman on the Future of Fish
Coastal Fish Farms Endager Wild Fish?
Can Fish Stay on Restaurant Menus? Chef Dan Barber Explores Revolutionary Approach to Fish Farming (Video)
Industrial-Scale Fish Farming Still Damaging, Despite Environmental Progress