Connect with us
background

Marine Life & Conservation

Do Fish Feel Pain?

Published

on

Since I was a child and watched images on TV of millions of fish being crushed and suffocated in giant nets and then dumped unceremoniously onto the deck of a boat, I have always been uncomfortable with the notion that those fish felt no pain or fear. My elders and betters always said that the fish had no real feelings as we know it and so there was no problem. I believed this right up to my late teens as it was easier to accept this rather than the cruel and thoughtless alternative of just turning a blind eye. We are expert at justifying our cruelty to other species, but surely we have advanced far enough now as a civilization to consider the true consequences of our actions.

As I began my career as an underwater wildlife cameraman/filmmaker I began to see marine creatures in an entirely different light. One of the absolutes of making good wildlife films is to study closely animal behaviour and try to capture it on camera.  I began to watch individual fish as well as crustaceans, soon discovering that each animal had its own personality. Individual fish reacting differently to others of the same species to the same circumstances. I have seen fish show traits of thought and fear. I have also seen many species struggle and suffer with pain.

I have been told by learned people that this is just fancy. Fish and certainly crustaceans have no physiology to register pain and any reactions are simply reflex. I could never decide if this was just self denial for the countless billions of marine animals we have made to suffer in the past or total arrogance in the belief that we know everything, and because there was no scientific proof that fish suffer pain, so it could not be happening.

One of the problems here is that fish make no recognisable noise to us. We can’t hear any screams. It is the same with other marine animals. We don’t hear crustaceans cry in terror and pain when they are dropped into boiling water. We even hide the frantic scrabbling of them trying to escape by putting the lid on the pot.

I always equate an animal’s ability to feel pain and fear by its efforts to fight for life. Its panic to get away, its struggle to defend itself. Surely this is an indication that the creature is experiencing something that terrifies it. If I see a fish on the end of a spear, shaking in its death throes while trying to escape, I have to say to myself that it is feeling pain. My entire body and mind tell me this is so. An octopus writhing on a kitchen chopping board screams out to me that it is afraid and feeling untold pain as the knife removes its arms. I am sure that many animals deal with pain in different ways and far better than we do, many species being able to overcome loss of limbs by regeneration. This does not make the loss any less painful.

We are discovering new things every day, aspects of life we never imagined possible only a few generations ago. The mapping of the human genome has recently revolutionised biology even though the genes were always there. Yet we still cling defiantly to the notion that things only exist when science proves it to be so.

I have had heated discussions with people from many walks of life about this and I am always amazed at how often we hide our cruelty to animals behind the wall of limited scientific knowledge. It was during one of my video courses in the Red Sea this year that the topic came up again with a few people. One was a nurse and she explained very carefully how fish in particular had no biology for feeling or registering pain. Well, in fact they do, but I didn’t know this for sure until a few days ago when I finally decided to do some new research and discovered a book written in 2010 Dr Victoria Braithwaite entitled ‘Do Fish Feel Pain?’. To my relief the answer was yes they do and the science was right there in black and white. Victoria Braithwaite is Professor of Fisheries and Biology at Penn State University, USA and a Visiting Professor of Biology, University of Bergen, Norway.

Dr Victoria Braithwaite makes the science behind the debate around pain in fish accessible to non-scientists. She describes the many different pieces of evidence that together build up a picture of fish as animals that, she concludes, “have the mental capacity to feel pain”: if we accept that birds and mammals can feel pain and suffer, then there is now sufficient evidence that fish can too.

The excerpts below are taken from http://fishcount.org.uk/fish-welfare-in-commercial-fishing/fish-sentience/do-fish-feel-pain

Recent scientific research has found evidence of a limbic system in the fish brain. The limbic system in the human brain is believed to be responsible for emotions. Scientists have shown that the brain is active when fish (goldfish, trout, salmon) experience painful stimuli.

Dr Victoria Braithwaite gives a surprising example of fish behaviour, involving cooperation between groupers and eels, which suggests that fish also have self-consciousness. In this context, self-consciousness means the ability to think about your own actions, to consider different possible scenarios, and to modify your decisions on how to act as necessary. Think of all the examples you know of animals that hunt together. With the exception of those involving humans, they are all between animals of the same species. Dr Victoria Braithwaite gives an example of cooperative hunting between two different species of fish, groupers and eels. This is remarkable.

http://fishcount.org.uk/fish-welfare-in-commercial-fishing/summary sum the issues up very well and I quote from them:

Commercial fishing is a major animal welfare issue. The suffering caused to a wild-caught fish is likely to be high, both in severity and duration. The number of animals affected is also very high. It is estimated that in the order of a trillion fish are caught each year.

The sentience of fish has huge ethical implications for the way they are caught and killed in fisheries.

Credit: OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP); University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

There is increasing acceptance that fish are able to feel fear, pain and distress. The methods by which wild fish are caught and die are likely to cause considerable suffering.

The greatest suffering caused may be that experienced by small fish used as “live bait”. These fish are thrown live to tuna, or worse still, impaled on hooks. This practice is common in long line fishing. Live fish should not be used as bait. Other modifications to fishing practice can also help reduce the stress and injury caused to fish during capture. Such measures can help improve the survival chances of released bycatch too. Suffering could be substantially reduced by shorter time intervals between setting and retrieving nets and lines (shorter capture durations).

Most commercially-caught wild fish, that are alive when landed, die either from being left to suffocate in air, or by a combination of suffocation and live dissection. Fish treated in this way may take several hours to lose consciousness. Sometimes fish are put onto ice as they suffocate, or into iced water which may both increase and prolong their suffering.

There are two traditional methods for killing fish that have the potential to be humane, namely percussive stunning and spiking. These methods kill fish individually, and so may not be practical for larger fishing operations with large numbers of smaller fish. For these cases, humane slaughter technology used on fish farms needs to be adapted for use on fishing vessels. More humane capture and killing are likely to result in improved eating quality.

Suffering could be reduced by strategies to catch fewer fish. This could be achieved by fishing at more sustainable levels; reducing bycatch and reducing the numbers of fish caught to make fishmeal. A substantial proportion of fish caught are caught to feed to farm animals. Catching fewer fish, and catching them at a larger size, reduces the suffering for the same amount of food.

Various stakeholders (animal welfare scientists, animal protection NGO’s, environmental NGO’s, government and inter-government bodies, supermarkets and retailers, animal welfare certification schemes) have worked to address the welfare of farmed fish. A similar approach is needed to address the welfare of wild-caught fish.

I remember Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd saying to me once ‘We spend so much time, money and effort trying to communicate with animals. I only wonder what it is we would want to say to them…. Sorry?’

Jeff is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.

Blogs

The Ocean Cleanup & Coldplay announce limited edition LP made using river plastic

Published

on

coldplay

  • Limited ‘Notebook Edition’ LP release of new Coldplay album ‘Moon Music’ made using river plastic removed from the Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala by The Ocean Cleanup

  • First collaborative product the latest step in Coldplay’s support for global non-profit

  • Innovative product partnerships essential for long-term success of The Ocean Cleanup’s mission to rid the oceans of plastic

The Ocean Cleanup and Coldplay have confirmed that a limited ‘Notebook Edition’ LP release of the band’s album ‘Moon Music’ will be manufactured using plastic intercepted by The Ocean Cleanup from the Rio Las Vacas, Guatemala.

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To achieve this, the non-profit operates a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy plastic in the oceans and deploying Interceptors to capture trash in rivers and stop it entering the oceans.

Today’s announcement with Coldplay of this Notebook Edition LP is an example of the innovative product partnerships The Ocean Cleanup creates to give this plastic a new life in sustainable and durable products, ensuring the plastic never re-enters the marine environment.

coldplay

The Ocean Cleanup project deployed Interceptor 006 in the Rio Las Vacas in 2023 to prevent plastic emissions into the Gulf of Honduras. Interceptor 006 made significant impact and captured large quantities of plastic – which has now been sorted, blended, tested and used to manufacture Coldplay’s limited edition physical release. The final product consists of 70% river plastic intercepted by The Ocean Cleanup and 30% recycled waste plastic bottles from other sources.The successful production of the Notebook Edition LP using intercepted river plastic marks an exciting new phase in Coldplay’s broad and long-standing support for The Ocean Cleanup. Coldplay provide financial support for the non-profit’s cleaning operations, sponsor Interceptor 005 in the Klang River, Malaysia (which the band named ‘Neon Moon I’) and share The Ocean Cleanup’s mission with millions of their fans during their record-breaking Music of the Spheres tour.Coldplay and The Ocean Cleanup collaborated closely during the intensive testing and quality control process, alongside processing and manufacturing partners Biosfera GT, Compuestos y Derivados S.A., Morssinkhof and Sonopress.Having proven the potential of their partnership, The Ocean Cleanup and Coldplay will continue to explore new and innovative ways to combine their impact and accelerate progress in the largest cleanup in history.

coldplay

“Coldplay is an incredible partner for us and I’m thrilled that our plastic catch has helped bring Moon Music to life.” said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. “Ensuring the plastic we catch never re-enters the marine environment is essential to our mission, and I’m excited to see how we’ll continue innovating with Coldplay and our other partners to rid the oceans of plastic – together.”

coldplay

About the Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is an international non-profit that develops and scales technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. They aim to achieve this goal through a dual strategy: intercepting in rivers to stop the flow and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean. For the latter, The Ocean Cleanup develops and deploys large-scale systems to efficiently concentrate the plastic for periodic removal. This plastic is tracked and traced to certify claims of origin when recycling it into new products. To curb the tide via rivers, The Ocean Cleanup has developed Interceptor™ Solutions to halt and extract riverine plastic before it reaches the ocean. As of June 2024, the non-profit has collected over 12 million kilograms (26.4 million pounds) of plastic from aquatic ecosystems around the world. Founded in 2013 by Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup now employs a broadly multi-disciplined team of approximately 140. 

Continue Reading

Blogs

Preserving Paradise: Seacology’s Island Conservation Mission

Published

on

seacology

Islands are not just pieces of land surrounded by water; they are sanctuaries of biodiversity, cradles of unique cultures, and vital components of our planet’s ecological balance. However, these paradises face numerous threats ranging from habitat destruction to climate change. Recognizing the urgency of protecting these fragile ecosystems, Seacology has emerged as a beacon of hope, championing the preservation of island habitats worldwide while empowering local communities. In this article, we are diving into Seacology’s mission, its global impact, and its generous support for key conservation initiatives in Curaçao.

The Seacology Story:

Seacology, founded in 1991 by Dr. Paul Alan Cox (American ethnobotanist), operates on a simple yet powerful principle: conservation through collaboration. Unlike traditional conservation organizations, Seacology adopts a community-driven approach, partnering directly with island communities to address their needs while safeguarding precious ecosystems.

seacology

At the heart of Seacology’s philosophy lies the belief that sustainable conservation can only be achieved by empowering those who depend on the natural resources of their islands. By working hand in hand with local stakeholders, Seacology fosters a sense of ownership and stewardship, ensuring long-term protection for vital habitats.

A Global Impact of Seacology

Since its inception, Seacology has made remarkable strides in protecting island ecosystems across the globe. Through innovative projects and strategic partnerships, the organization has conserved millions of acres of marine and terrestrial habitat, spanning more than 60 countries.

What sets Seacology apart is its holistic approach, which integrates conservation efforts with community development initiatives. By providing tangible benefits such as clean water, education, and healthcare, Seacology incentivizes local communities to actively participate in conservation efforts, forging a sustainable path towards coexistence with nature.

Curaçao: A Jewel in the Caribbean Crown

Located in the crystalline waters of the Southern Caribbean Sea, Curaçao boasts stunning coral reefs, lush mangroves, and vibrant marine life. However, like many island nations, Curaçao faces a myriad of challenges including overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change impacts.

seacology

In 2024, Seacology’s commitment to island conservation took center stage in Curaçao, where the organization provided generous support for three key initiatives: Reef Renewal Curaçao, Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, and the Queen Conch Hatchery. Additionally, Seacology provided additional funding to advance sustainable fishing practices through educational programs.

Reef Renewal Curaçao

Coral reefs are the lifeblood of marine ecosystems, supporting a quarter of all marine species despite occupying less than 1% of the ocean floor. However, these invaluable ecosystems are under siege from rising sea temperatures, pollution, and destructive fishing practices.

seacology

Reef Renewal Curaçao, a flagship project supported by Seacology, aims to reverse the decline of coral reefs by implementing innovative coral propagation and restoration techniques. By engaging local communities in reef restoration efforts, Seacology is optimistic that their support will enable Reef Renewal Curaçao to continue their important work revitalizingd amaged ecosystems and fostering a sense of stewardship among residents.

Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao

For millions of years, sea turtles have roamed the world’s oceans, serving as keystone species and indicators of ecosystem health. Yet, these ancient mariners face numerous threats including habitat loss, poaching, and accidental capture in fishing gear.

seacology

In collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, Seacology is supporting their efforts to protect Curaçao’s sea turtle populations through research, monitoring, and community outreach. By raising awareness about the importance of sea turtles and implementing measures to mitigate threats, Seacology is aiding Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao to safeguard these iconic creatures for future generations to admire.

The Queen Conch Hatchery

Conch, revered for their succulent meat and ornate shells, are a cultural and culinary staple in many island communities. However, unregulated harvesting has led to depleted populations, jeopardizing both ecological balance and traditional livelihoods.

In Curaçao, Seacology’s support for the Queen Conch Hatchery initiative aims to conserve dwindling conch populations through captive breeding and sustainable harvesting practices. By collaborating with local fishermen and authorities, Seacology is helping to ensure that conch populations thrive while preserving cultural traditions and supporting coastal communities.

The project “Conquer the Future” is investigating the mortality and growth of Queen Conch juveniles, cultured at Curacao Sea Aquarium, after they have been outplanted in the wild. These experiments with small numbers of Queen Conch will take place in both Curaçao (Spanish Water) and Bonaire (Lac Bay). WWF-Dutch Caribbean is the main sponsor of this project, Seacology is the co-sponsor.

Advancing Sustainable Fishing Practices

Fishing is an integral part of Curaçao’s economy and culture, but unsustainable practices have led to overfishing and the depletion of key fish species. Recognizing the need for change, Seacology has provided a grant to the Federation of Cooperative Production (FKUP) to support innovative educational programs aimed at promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Through this initiative, Seacology hopes to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among local fishers. The educational programs focus on teaching sustainable fishing techniques, such as selective gear use, seasonal restrictions, and size limits, which help protect juvenile fish and allow populations to recover. Additionally, the programs emphasize the importance of marine conservation, the impact of overfishing on the ecosystem, and the benefits of sustainable practices for future generations.

seacology

By supporting the FKUP, Seacology is helping to ensure that local fishers have the knowledge and resources to adopt sustainable practices. This not only helps preserve fish stocks and marine biodiversity but also secures the livelihoods of fishing communities in the long term.

WWF-Dutch Caribbean supported in 2023 the first round of the sustainable fishing training organized by FKUP in Curaçao. Due to lack of budget at WWF-DC, FKUP has been looking for another sponsor for this training. They found Seacology to fund more training.

A Beacon of Hope for Island Conservation

In a world grappling with environmental crises, Seacology stands as a shining example of what can be achieved through passion, perseverance, and partnership. By empowering island communities, Seacology not only protects precious ecosystems but also enriches lives and preserves cultural heritage.

As we navigate the uncertain waters of the 21st century, organizations like Seacology remind us that the fate of our planet lies in our hands. Through collective action and unwavering dedication, we can safeguard the treasures of our islands and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Instagram Feed

Popular