Happy New Year to all our wonderful OneKind supporters! To kick start the year we thought we’d talk to you about why we think 2019 should be the year to Rethink Fish.
Even though fish share many similar characteristics with humans – they feel pain, they communicate with each other, work cooperatively and have unique personalities – they are often forgotten about, for example a 2018 survey of the UK public showed that only 43% of respondents believe that fish are sentient.
Here at OneKind we have long believed that fish should be recognised as sentient beings whose welfare is equally important to that of other animals. In this blog we will share some facts about fish to encourage you to rethink fish this year!
- Fish feel pain
Whilst there has been debate about this for a while, science overwhelming shows that fish are capable of feeling pain. Evidence for this includes their possession of pain receptors, behavioural changes that occur when exposed to a noxious event, and these behaviours reducing once they are provided with pain-relief. One key example is that when rainbow trout had bee venom injected into their lip, their gill rate started to increase, they rocked from side to side, and they rubbed their lips alongside the gravel and against the side of their tank.
- Fish work together
Remarkably, fish from different species have been shown to work as a team, for example Groupers and Giant Moray Eels hunt for reef fish together. These two species work together in mutualism as their different hunting styles compliment each other- groupers hunt in open water, which causes their prey to hide in gaps in the rock, whereas eels stay in crevices, where they chase their prey into a corner. It has been shown that groupers will signal to the eels to encourage them to start hunting together, and that both species benefit from this relationship, as the hunting success of both fish increases.
- Fish can use tools and make art
There is strong evidence that fish can use tools, with wrasse species being the experts at this! For example, the blackspot tuskfish, yellowhead wrasse and the orange-dotted tuskfish use rocks as anvils to open clams.
Male pufferfish are also able to create wonderful patterned nests. They use their bodies to make a circle of peaks and valleys in the sand to attract females. They work for over a week to complete this structure, and despite their size (13cm), they can make a patterned nest of up to 2 metres in diameter!
- Fish have unique personalities, and are self-aware
There is lots of evidence that shows that fish of many different species, from guppies to sharks, have different personalities, with some individuals being a lot bolder and confident than others that are shyer. One example of this is rainbow trout as individuals have been shown to be bold (spending more time in open areas and being more active) or shy (less active and more likely to keep to the sides of the tank).
There is also evidence that some species of fish can recognise themselves in the mirror- which is indicative of self-awareness. Both manta rays and the blue-streak cleaner wrasse both show evidence that they recognise that the reflection in the mirror is of themselves!
- Fish urgently need our help
Fish are the most used animal on earth, with estimates that between one and three trillion fish are caught from the wild each year, and that between forty- eight and one hundred and sixty billion farmed fish are slaughtered globally each year.
If they are wild-caught fish can suffer from issues such as suffering from decompression effects following quick raising from the water, being crushed under the weight of other fish in trawl nets, and being subject to long periods of capture, and farmed fish can suffer as a result of high stocking densities, diseases, aggressive interactions and poor husbandry. The slaughter of fish can also be inhumane, with some methods such as submersion in an ice and water mixture, exposure to carbon dioxide, and bleeding, all of which can cause pain, fear and prolonged suffering.
This is why we launched our salmon farming campaign in August 2018, which calls on the Scottish Parliament to support a moratorium on planned expansion of the salmon farming industry in Scotland until key welfare issues are addressed.
What can you do?
- Check out Compassion in World Farming’s new Rethink Fish campaign
- Sign our salmon farming petition calling for a moratorium on planned expansion of the salmon farming industry in Scotland, until key fish welfare issues are addressed.
- Donate to our campaign, or become a member, so that we can continue to give all of Scotland’s animals- including fish- a louder voice!
- Read the book What a Fish Knows. If you are interested in learning more about the wonderful world of fish then I would recommend reading Jonathan Balcombe’s book What a Fish Knows which offers a lot more information about fish!