Frequently asked questions about fishing

Here you will find answers

hook What is wrong with (children's) fishing competitions?
hook Can fish feel pain and stress?
hook Do sport fishers respect fish and nature?
hook Are sport fishers cruel?
hook Why do sport fishers fish?
hook What are the consequences of sport fishing for the fish?
hook What are the other consequences of sport fishing?
hook More information

What is wrong with (children's) fishing competitions?

The most experienced fisherman causes pain and stress to fish just by fishing. This is often multiplied when children fish, because of their inexpertness. In their innocence and ignorance, children disrupt nature; they do not recognize vulnerable plants and animals. Noisily, excitedly and roughly they move along the waterfront and make themselves a spot to fish from.
A competition is a match in which the object is to catch as many or as big a fish as you can. The child is given the message that animals can be used for games, and that their interests are not important. Respect for nature also means respect for fish. Shouldn't adults give children the message that they should respect fish and so leave them alone?

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Can fish experience pain and stress?

Yes, fish experience pain, just not the same way people do. It is cruel to make a fish suffer needlessly, just like it would be for any other animal. There used to be doubts whether fish could suffer, but nowadays most scientists no longer have these doubts. Partly because of this, the government has made a law that forbids fishing with live bait. In 2002 the killing of eels in salt baths will be banned, because the animals suffer needlessly. The Dutch Animal Protection Agency wants to take it a step further and is aiming towards a ban of sport fishing.
Even when you doubt that fish can feel pain, wouldn't it be more logical to give fish the benefit of the doubt for the time being, and avoid unnecessary suffering?
We think it's not just about whether fish can feel pain or not. It's about showing respect towards nature.

A study in 2000 in New Zealand showed that fish are able to recognize anglers as a threath, a behaviour only achievable by an ability to feel pain. Anglers in the UK also speak of fishing waters becoming 'less productive' as the fish learn to recognise the threat from them. Recent work at Glasgow University has shown that fish are able to recognise close kin, while other studies have shown that fish have a pretty good memory, contrary to popular perception.

PubMed - Thé worldwide database for scientific research
"the conclusion is drawn that fish are capable of feeling pain and that they are able to suffer"
Do pain and fear make a hooked carp in play suffer?
"Scientific research has shown that fish that are on the end of a taut line or moved with a taut line show a number of behavioral patterns that could indicate a compromise to its welfare"

Roslin Institute (Edinburgh): Scientists claim proof that fish feel pain
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hook Do sport fishers respect fish and nature?

Sport fishers say that they respect nature and its beauty.
The question asked by us - animal rights organizations - is: "how is this respect shown". Can you claim to respect nature when you injure a fish and take it out of its habitat with a hook and a line, to then put it back injured? (See also other consequences of sport fishing.) The number of fish species that is fished upon regularly has to be replenished (ref).
You can answer the following questions best yourself:
Can you injure an animal that can experience pain and stress, just because you enjoy a type of sport?
Suppose someone would get ill, and as a consequence could no longer experience any pain. Does this lack of pain sensation imply that you can injure that person for fun?
Is it respectful to an animal, no matter if it can experience pain and stress, when you injure it for fun?

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hook Are sport fishers cruel?

Of course, sport fishers aren't cruel on purpose. They will not intentionally hurt fish or injure them. That would be an unkind thought. Unfortunately, they do not see that the sport they love so much is hurting, injuring and causing stress to animals. Most fishermen bluntly deny that fish can feel pain (because admitting otherwise would make them seem cruel) because scientists have proven that fish experience pain differently than people do. They use this different perception of pain as an excuse to no longer think about the consequences for fish, and so they deny that fish can feel pain at all.

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hook Why do sport fishers fish?

A number of often-heard reasons are:

  • Excitement
    The fight between fishermen and fish give the fisher a kick. Especially carp and catfish are real fighters, and very attractive prey for "aficionados". Some people feel their primitive hunting instincts coming up in this fight between man and animal.
  • Peace and quiet
    It's always quiet on the waterfront. You can leave the stress of reality behind for a while by concentrating on fishing.
  • In nature
    Nature with all its peace and quiet and beauty has inspired people since the beginning of time. One person likes to walk, the other rides a bicycle, and another tries to get in touch with nature by fishing.
  • Social relations
    Sport fishing is a hobby. Just like in other hobbies, you meet people with the same interests, which always ensures interesting conversations and sometimes forges new friendships. Every sport fisher has his own (fisherman's) tales about fishing, there are numerous accessories for fishing and endless tactics.
  • Food
    Some sport fishers eat the fish they catch.
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hook What are the consequences of sport fishing for fish?

As soon as a fish bites, a barbed hook penetrates the roof of its mouth. It will try to swim away, but the fisherman's line is too strong. Floundering and gasping for oxygen, the fish tries unsuccessfully to get away. Hanging by its upper lip, the fish is reeled in after its struggle and then lands powerlessly into the fisherman's hands.

Then the hook needs to be removed. Experienced fishermen generally know that they have to be careful with the fish's skin, and place it on a special mat. Less experienced or equipped fishermen don't take this into account and often put the fish down on the rough ground. This can easily cause the fish to lose scales. Since a fish's skin is made up of scales and a thin layer of mucus only, damaging its skin often leads to skin infections by fungi and bacteria. Holding fish in dry hands has these same risks, and is strongly advised against. Wrong live nets or wrongly used live nets can also cause stress and damage to the fish's scales. Of course, taking out a hook of a fish's mouth leaves a wound there. The size of the wound depends on the aptitude of the fisherman.

Sometimes a fish is kept inside a live net for a few hours. The stressed and fearful fish cannot escape and is kept under stress for hours. But even if it is released immediately, fish can still shown symptoms of stress several hours after they were caught.

There are a number of scenario's that can have severe consequences for the fish:
" A fish that slips from the fisherman's hands and lands on the ground, damages its skin by floundering on the rough surface.
" The fisherman who accidentally grips the fish with too much force (maybe as a reflex because the fish is slipping from his hand) may damage the fish's organs.
" A fishhook may puncture eyes, brains or gills, which is nearly always lethal to the fish.
Especially inexperienced sport fishers sometimes wait too long after the fish bites before they reel it in. The fish may have already swallowed the bait including the hook. Then the fish is lifted out of the water by its entrails. When the fisherman tries to remove the hook, he damages the fish's insides even more. To get rid of the fish, the fisher can cut the line, but the fish will suffer from the hook in its stomach and possibly die.

External links:

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hook What are the consequences of sport fishing?
There are various consequences of sport fishing. The first is the direct influence on the fish that is caught.

Indirectly, problems arise because a fish that has swallowed a hook may become the prey of predatory fish or other animals like birds. Animals are also victimized by fishing lines lying around, with or without hooks. Furthermore, sport fishing releases a sizeable quantity of lead into nature. Lead is one of the most poisonous heavy metals that can have negative consequences for animals and people alike. Check the external links to see these consequences in text and images.

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hook More information

The following external link provides extensive information about the welfare of fish:

English: Intelligent fish
Fish do not deserve their reputation as the dim-wits of the animal kingdom, according to a group of British scientists. Far from being instinct-driven dunces, held back by a three-second memory, fish were cunning, manipulative, cultured and socially aware.
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