Fishes and other Sea Animals Articles from All-Creatures.org




Ecocentric thoughts on fishing

From Ian Whyte, Earth Tongues / Ecological Citizen
April 2022

It is true to say that no fish suffers an easy death at human hands..... It is almost common knowledge that the oceans are emptying out as fishing takes everything. One by one, as a species is fished out, other species appear on the market. Each new species on the market indicates that another, formerly common, one is gone or almost so.

dead Fishes

My ecocentric goals and touchstones (the thriving of all Earthlings, do least harm and love life and Gaia) are all severely violated by fishing. It is true to say that no fish suffers an easy death at human hands. In fact, most caught fish are, more or less, tortured to death; that is, left to asphyxiate (sometimes over long periods), on their sides in rough circumstances and often with tons of their kin squashing them down. Commercial fishing is even more awful, if possible, than this; often many times more by-catch non-target fish than target fish are caught and suffer the same death on the boat deck, and then they are tossed overboard, dead and unmourned.

Why is it that no real improvement in how fish are killed has taken place for many decades, even centuries? It is still an uncaring death-dealing business. Why is it that old nets are allowed to Ďget lostí so conveniently, when then they keep on fishing and killing, as ghost nets, for ages? Thereíre many more questions: Why are lobster and crab traps still secured by anchor ropes that result in whale entanglement and subsequent death? Is your lobster worth the final demise of the Northern Right Whales? What could possibly justify boiling lobsters to death? Why are trawlers allowed to destroy the sea-bottom landscape so that it becomes unsuitable for fish habitat? Think of cutting off the fins (theyíre fleshy you know, kind of like your arm) of live sharks, or thousands of asphyxiating, sentient lives on a deck.

It is almost common knowledge that the oceans are emptying out as fishing takes everything. One by one, as a species is fished out, other species appear on the market. Each new species on the market indicates that another, formerly common, one is gone or almost so.

Then there is the Antarctic sea krill. There is a new fishery dedicated to mining it (if the rest of commercial fishing is any guide) from the cold oceans. What will become of the whales that migrate there for the annual feast of krill, and the penguins which count on krill, when it is much diminished by humans who donít eat it but use it industrially?

Itís my conviction, for both ecological and animal rights considerations, that no commercially caught fish or product should ever be caught, eaten or used industrially.

Sport fishing is no better; perhaps it is even worse in that the fishing is often done for fun, enjoyment, and relaxation. Too bad about the fully sentient and feeling fish; no doubt they donít enjoy having their mouths torn apart, their eyeballs poked out from behind, or their gills or guts pulled out with the barbed hook. The questions are, why does the fisherperson enjoy the torturous activity? Can you imagine a steel hook going through the roof of your mouth and coming out through or beside your eyeball? Why is it allowed by society? Why is there no compunction about encouraging children to learn this feelings-damping and cruelty-enhancing activity? Ecologically, and morally, this appears to be a kind of child abuse to me.

Even catch-and-release fishing causes serious damage to fish. According to a 2005 Ontario government report, one-sixth (16.2%) of fish caught and released subsequently die of their trauma (Casselman, 2005). Moreover, despite the report discussing many types of grievous injury, it makes absolutely no mention of physical pain or mental distress. Itís as if the author was (wilfully?) oblivious to such obvious things.

Fishing spreads desolation and destruction, both physical and emotional, across whatever landscape or seascape is blighted with either activity. It appears to me that this is true for the victims, their victimizers as well as Gaia Herself. Arguments to the contrary amount to crass rationalizations, an activity well known for its ability to justify anything or any position. Fishing, in short, is not an activity compatible with an ecocentric worldview.

NOTE

Modern research shows that fish are sentient and feel pain. I have been hesitant to use this knowledge in the above essay because my ecocentric mode of thinking demands that all beings are dealt with by the do-least-harm and love-for-life principles. It would be wrong to assume that my use of this data weakens similar arguments in other situations.


Posted on All-Creatures.org: May 31, 2024
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