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.
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.
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.
Sport fishers say that they respect nature and its beauty.
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.
A number of often-heard reasons are:
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:
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.
The following external link provides extensive information about the welfare of fish: