Fish are sentient animals. They are capable of feeling pain, and they experience a range of emotions. Scientific evidence has revealed that fish are far more intelligent than people assume. They have long-term memories, complex social structures, problem solving abilities, and some have been seen using tools. Most fish have highly developed senses with excellent taste, smell and colour vision.
A Change of Heart
A growing number of scientists believe that stocks of all species of sea fish will have collapsed by 2050, largely due to over-fishing. Meanwhile, aquaculture continues to grow, with between 50-160 billion farmed fish being slaughtered for food each year (in 1970, around 5 per cent of the fish we ate came from farms). Roughly 50% of the fish humans consume today has been farmed.
Proponents of the industry would have us believe that fish farming is part of the solution to the collapse of sea stocks. Not so. Many of the species farmed are carnivorous and are fed largely on wild-caught fish. Over 450 billion fish are caught each year to produce fish oil and fishmeal, which is fed to farmed fish. It takes about two and a half tonnes of wild-caught fish, such as anchovies, to produce one tonne of farmed salmon. Due to the small size of anchovies, this can mean that 500 individuals must be caught and killed for fish oil, just to produce one salmon.
Commercial fish farming typically involves huge cages located about 30 feet under water. The fish spend their entire lives in this stressful and over-crowded environment. They are highly susceptible to disease and suffer acute stress, aggression, and physical injuries such as fin damage.
Overcrowding can also lead to poor water quality, so the fish have less oxygen to breathe.
Rearing fish in cages prevents their natural swimming behaviour. Fish such as salmon would naturally swim great distances at sea. Instead, the fish swim in circles around the cage, rubbing against the mesh and each other.
On a salmon farm, salmon as big as three-quarters of a metre long can be given the equivalent of as little as a bathtub of water each.
The containers are not escape-proof. During their lifetime, the cages usually allow some fish escapes into the open sea, resulting in the spread of disease into the native population.
Disease and infection are commonplace on fish farms. Widespread use of antibiotics is how the industry keeps disease and infection at ‘an acceptable level’. Long term effects can be the development of super strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Where there are fish farms there is water pollution. The water flowing out of an aquaculture facility carries large volumes of nutrients, particulates, bacteria, as well as other diseased organisms and polluting chemicals.
Anti-fouling agents are used on most fish farms to keep the cages or containers clean. These anti-fouling agents can be highly toxic.
It is common practice on fish farms to starve the fish for several days before slaughter in order to empty the gut. This is stressful enough for the fish, yet there have been cases where fish have been known to be starved for two weeks or more.
Generally, fish are slaughtered by means of electrical stunning or a strike to the head. Other methods cause greater suffering, such as leaving the fish to suffocate in air or on ice, gassing with carbon dioxide or cutting the gills without stunning.
FACTS YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW
fish (farmed and wild-caught) are killed each year for food.
That’s 8,219,178,082 every day;
342,465,753 every hour;
5,707,762 every minute;
95,129 every second.
In the time it takes you to say ‘fish are sentient, too’, about 200,000 fish will have been killed. This puts all the killings of all the other animals combined in the shade. Every single one of these 3 trillion fish is an individual animal, with its own unique DNA, its own unique personality, its own ability to experience pain and stress.