The answer is yes. Scientific evidence that fish are sentient animals capable of experiencing pain and suffering has been building for some years. It has now reached a point where the sentience of fish is acknowledged and recognised by leading scientists across the world.
If we accept that fish are sentient and can experience pain, then we have an ethical obligation to treat fish humanely and avoid practices that have the potential to cause them pain, injury or suffering. This has significant implications for the treatment of fish in commercial fisheries, aquaculture (fish farming) and in recreational fishing. Given the number of animals involved, the impact of current fish harvesting and capture methods on the welfare of fish is enormous.
A number of strategies are needed to address this problem, including:
- reducing the number of fish caught
- reducing the suffering of fish during capture
- using humane killing techniques as soon as possible after landing fish
- banning the use of live bait.
If you want to read more about what science can tell us about fish behaviour and sentience, we recommend the book Do fish feel pain? by fish biologist Victoria Braithwaite, published in 2010 by Oxford University Press.
For more information on ways to improve the welfare of commercially harvested fish, you can visit the fishcount.org.uk website.