Like the cats and dogs we share our homes with, fish have unique personalities. Some are shy, some are curious, and some are adventurous. Just as we use our hands to pick things up, fish use their mouths to gather food and build nests. They talk to each other with squeaks and squeals, help each other, and have been seen returning favors. Some have even learned how to garden, growing only the plants they like to eat. Puffer fish make beautiful, symmetrical works of art in the sand to impress a mate.
There are about 30,000 species of fish in the world, and some of them can fly while others can climb trees—and some are even able to change from male to female and back again. Researchers have found that fish recognize each other and learn things by eavesdropping. They can remember interactions they’ve had with others, and they show affection by rubbing against each other.
Imagine that you’re out for a fun swim with your friends when all of a sudden you’re trapped and being dragged through the water. This is the terrifying situation that fish who are scooped up in nets and caught on hooks experience. When they’re pulled out of the water, they can’t breathe! And the sudden change in air pressure can rupture their swim bladders, meaning “catch and release” is still painful and deadly to fish—and very traumatic.
Nets don’t just catch fish used for food. They also catch turtles, dolphins, sharks, and any other sea animal who’s around. The fishing industry kills billions of animals and damages the ocean’s fragile ecosystem.
Fishing from a small boat in a lake isn’t any better than fishing on a big ship. Fish have sensitive mouths and are able to feel pain and suffer, just like us. When a hook pierces their cheek, they struggle to escape, often tearing their mouth even more as they panic. If you saw a dog who accidentally got a hook left behind by a fisher stuck in their mouth, you’d feel really sorry for the dog. We need to have the same empathy for fish and stop fishing, because they feel pain, too.
Anyone who takes a minute to learn about fish will see that they’re intelligent animals who have a right to live in peace, just as we do. Make the kind choice to leave them—and all animals—off your plate!