The world’s fish are suffering. Whether caught for food or to be kept as pets, entire fish populations are struggling to either stay alive or live their best lives in their natural habitat — lives that extend to old age, where they remember interactions with each other and show affection by rubbing up against one another, much like humans cuddle each other and their dogs or cats.
Although they can’t scream or cry in a way we recognize, fish DO have feelings. They suffer and feel pain, usually at the hands of humans. They’re sentient creatures who can become bored or frustrated when kept in tiny tanks or aquariums for human amusement. In such conditions, they feel lonely, cramped, and far from home–their real home, where they can swim the many miles a day they are accustomed to and can finish their bubble hut they began to build for their babies before they were cruelly scooped up and captured.
According to PETA, fish “have nervous systems and react to painful stimuli the same way all animals do –their breathing rate increases, their muscles contract, and they try to escape.” So when fish in the wild are caught using longline fishing techniques or exposed to a small puff of cyanide to stun and capture them live (an illegal practice called “cyanide fishing”), their panic and pain is similar to what any other animal would feel in the same conditions.
Wild fish are caught and transported to be kept unnaturally as pets from all around the world, with pet stores being the main offenders. Even if they manage to escape the net (which in itself is stressful), the resulting shock and treacherous travel weakens them.
The fishing industry also contributes to their suffering, wherein fish are caught, not as pets, but to be eaten.
90% of fish in aquariums are caught in the wild, with 95% of saltwater fish sold in pet shops coming from their homes and natural lives in Fiji, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Pacific Islands. More than 20 million fish are captured from the wild every year to support a $300 million worldwide “hobby,” according to PETA.
According to Forbes, “it has been estimated that between .97 to 2.7 trillion fish” are slaughtered each year for human consumption.
Bycatch–where marine species who are not the intended victims of the commercial fishing industry are scooped up into huge fishing nets accidentally, and injured and killed in the process– is another issue. Global bycatch may amount to 40% of the world’s catch, totalling 63 billion pounds per year, according to Oceana’s report. NOAA Fisheries shed light on the unfortunate subject: “Fishermen sometimes catch and discard animals they do not want, cannot sell, or are not allowed to keep. This is collectively known as ‘bycatch.’ Bycatch can be fish, but also includes other animals such as dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and seabirds that become hooked or entangled in fishing gear. For NOAA Fisheries, bycatch refers to ‘discarded catch of marine species and unobserved mortality due to a direct encounter with fishing vessels and gear.’ These unintentionally caught animals often suffer injuries or die.”
What Is HAP Doing About It?
Educating the public of the inhumane treatment fish encounter when caught from the wild to be imprisoned in tiny tanks as pets or killed for food is our first step. Awareness is key while fighting for the lives of fish, who are capable of remembering past social interactions with other fish and show affection by rubbing up against one another.
Through our “Better for Betta Fish” campaign, we’re working with pet stores to stop the sale of betta fish as pets, leaving them in their natural habitat to thrive. Our “No Plastic Please” campaign also benefits humans and fish (and other animals!) by reducing unnecessary single-use plastic waste. We hope to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in oceans, eliminating risk to ALL species and keeping plastic from littering our communities and waterways.
How You Can Help
Assist in educating pet stores where you see injured, sick, or abused fish if you feel comfortable doing so.
Swap out meals that include fish for plant-based options.
Your donation can also help us save fish from suffering or early death by funding us to educate and inspire the next generation on this important issue.