A West Australian gives up fishing following an angling epiphany:

I had the sudden realisation that I had ruined this fish’s life. The one I’m holding in this photo is (and will always be) the last fish I ever caught. I was an arsehole. I’m sorry but, at the same time, forever grateful that he helped me flick the switch.

It should have been obvious to me from the struggle and panic I had witnessed time and time again that fish feel pain, just like all animals do. I’ve since learnt that they are actually quite intelligent. They can recognise each other, communicate, and grieve the loss of their companions. Some can even use objects as tools, and others make art in the sand to attract mates.

And we’ve all heard how the health of our reefs and oceans is hanging in the balance. I’ve seen it first-hand. Scientists say that if we keep killing sea animals at the rate we currently do, we will face a barren and desolate ocean by 2050, stripped of all traces of life. I am glad to have no further part in their destruction.

I’ve always loved the ocean and my fascination and love for its inhabitants has grown tenfold since I stopped treating them like disposable playthings. Replacing fishing with snorkelling has been a wonderful change in my life. To swim with and beside sea life is an experience many times better than fishing ever was.

Dr Andrew Rowlands disagrees:

The anti-fishing brigade has once again rolled out the “fish feel pain” rhetoric in an effort to convince people that fishing is a bad thing to do.

Any suggestion of equivalence between what fish and humans feel in relation to a hook lodged in the lip has been well and truly dismissed by science. The differences between humans and fish are pretty clear to most people. Fish live in a very different environment and have evolved a very different physiology to humans. Fish have tough mouths and eat hard, spiny and bony food including crabs, prawns, oysters, mussels and fish. 

It is simply not correct to accept that fish have a human-like capacity for feeling pain. Unfortunately this false argument is something that is continually peddled by groups with a vested interest in ending all recreational and commercial fishing.

Being an arsehole is one of the pluses of being human.

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