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There’s something fishy about ‘sea food’... In fact, there’s a lot more to fish and other sea animals than most people realise. For starters, fish feel pain. They also have unique personalities and many enjoy the company and touch of others. And yet, countless billions of these interesting animals are killed every year to feed humans...

Fish

Many people are surprised to learn fish communicate with each other using low frequency squeaks and squeals, which humans can only hear using special instruments. Some fish even sing to impress a potential partner. Many also build nests for their young. While others collect small stones to build a space to hide and rest.

Dr Culum Brown, a specialist in fish behaviour from Macquarie University (NSW) says ‘Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of ‘higher’ vertebrates including non-human primates’. Brown has found that older fish teach younger fish, for example about predators, even including the sound of trawler engines.

In another study, Australian crimson spotted rainbowfish not only learnt to escape from a net in their tank, but were able to remember how to escape again 11 months later—the equivalent of a human remembering a lesson from 40 years ago.

"We're now finding that [fish] are very capable of learning and remembering, and possess a range of cognitive skills that would surprise many people."
— Dr. Theresa Burt de Perera, Oxford University

Scientists agree that fish feel pain. They actually have a nervous system very similar to ours and other mammals. They have particularly sensitive lips and mouths. Why? Because they use this part of their body much like we use our hands, to feel about and look for food.

So of course hooks hurt! If fish had voice boxes, we would hear shrieks of fear and pain as these maimed and terrified animals are yanked from the water and suffocated to death.

[Getting caught by a hook] is like dentistry without novocaine, drilling into exposed areas. 

Commercial Fishing

Trawling is one of the most common types of commercial fishing and also one of the most destructive. Large nets are dragged through the ocean catching everything in their way, including dolphins, sharks, and all sorts of other animals. Many trawling nets drag along the ocean floor crushing everything, including hundreds of year old coral reefs.

As animals are dragged to the surface in huge nets, many are crushed to death under the weight of other victims. Worse yet is decompression from the rapid change in pressure, which causes fish’s eyes and organs to explode. The change of pressure can also cause what divers call the bends, which can be extremely painful or even fatal.

And drift gill nets do even more damage! These nets use an almost invisible net that forms a wall to the ocean floor. They can span 30km and kill dolphins, whales, sharks, seals, and any other animals that get caught in them. They cause even more destruction when they break free during storms and drift through the ocean killing animals.

Fish Farms

Fish farms are factory farms for fish, and they cause many of the same problems. The densely populated conditions cause stress, frustration and provide a breeding ground for disease. To make things even worse, fish farms are net consumers of other fish—tuna eat roughly 10kg of pilchards for every 1kg of tuna produced. That means more fish must be caught from oceans to feed to fish on factory farms!

I never eat anyone I know personally. I wouldn't deliberately eat a grouper any more than I'd eat a cocker spaniel. They're so good-natured, so curious. You know, fish are sensitive, they have personalities, they hurt when they're wounded. 

Hundreds of lives are in your hands. ‘Sea food’ is mean food. It causes suffering and death and not just to the animals on your plate. So swim against tide—do fish a favour and get hooked on healthy, cruelty-free food instead!

Next: Saving the Planet »

Fish certainly feel pain! And the area around their mouth is highly innervated. Imagine if that hook was ripping through the flesh of a dog or cat.

Fish certainly feel pain! And the area around their mouth is highly innervated. Imagine if that hook was ripping through the flesh of a dog or cat.

In their death throws fish writhe, gasping and flapping their gills as they desperately try to get oxygen. As anyone who has been unable to breath would know, these are terrifying moments.

In their death throws fish writhe, gasping and flapping their gills as they desperately try to get oxygen. As anyone who has been unable to breath would know, these are terrifying moments.

Commercial fishing harms and kills more animals than perhaps any other industry on the planet. We’re talking billions of animals killed each year!

Commercial fishing harms and kills more animals than perhaps any other industry on the planet. We’re talking billions of animals killed each year!

Often more than 50% of animals caught by trawlers are unwanted and are simply tossed back. Of those that aren’t already dead, many will die from their injuries or from being so weakened they are unable to defend themselves or escape predators.

Often more than 50% of animals caught by trawlers are unwanted and are simply tossed back. Of those that aren’t already dead, many will die from their injuries or from being so weakened they are unable to defend themselves or escape predators.

Bottom trawlers grind across the bottom of the ocean destroying everything in their way. Including century old coral. You think destroying the rainforest in the Amazon sucks? Well some of these reefs are just as old and just as important for life!

Bottom trawlers grind across the bottom of the ocean destroying everything in their way. Including century old coral. You think destroying the rainforest in the Amazon sucks? Well some of these reefs are just as old and just as important for life!

As animals are pulled upwards towards the water’s surface the change in pressure causes their eyes to balloon out, and their swimming bladder to explode.

As animals are pulled upwards towards the water’s surface the change in pressure causes their eyes to balloon out, and their swimming bladder to explode.

Drift gill nets catch fish by their gills, a painful and even fatal experience. Dolphins, whales, and seals may also get caught and drown, unable to reach the surface. Sharks too may suffocate if they get caught, as they rely on movement to breath.

Drift gill nets catch fish by their gills, a painful and even fatal experience. Dolphins, whales, and seals may also get caught and drown, unable to reach the surface. Sharks too may suffocate if they get caught, as they rely on movement to breath.

On crowded fish farms, animals literally live in their own waste—an ideal breeding ground for disease. And when this filthy water is released it pollutes oceans and waterways.

On crowded fish farms, animals literally live in their own waste—an ideal breeding ground for disease. And when this filthy water is released it pollutes oceans and waterways.

If fish survive the cramped, stressful conditions of a restaurant fish tank long enough to be picked as dinner, then they may face a slow and painful death by clumsy, inexperienced hands.

If fish survive the cramped, stressful conditions of a restaurant fish tank long enough to be picked as dinner, then they may face a slow and painful death by clumsy, inexperienced hands.

Crabs and other crustaceans are commonly bound and confined to overcrowded tanks as they await their deaths in restaurants.

Crabs and other crustaceans are commonly bound and confined to overcrowded tanks as they await their deaths in restaurants.

Anyone who's seen a lobster boiled alive would recognise the violent thrashings of a creature in pain and trying to escape.

Anyone who's seen a lobster boiled alive would recognise the violent thrashings of a creature in pain and trying to escape.

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