Fishing may be painful
for the fish, that is..

Dedicated to Glowing_Fish.

I'm old and I live on a river, hence the handle, olmanrvr. But that's not why I'm here. I went fishing on "my" river yesterday, and it just wasn't the same. I only caught two fish and I released them both, but not before I saw that look of fear and pain in their eyes. I had never noticed it before yesterday morning when I read of a recent study by the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh indicating that fish feel pain. Ouch!

Upon further investigation, it appears this argument has been around awhile. In 1987, Dutch researcher John Verheijen announced in the journal, New Scientist, "that fish have a highly developed system that may help protect them from severe pain," and there's the catch they say. Why would a fish need such a system, one that releases natural opiate-like substances, if the ability to experience pain didn't exist in the first place? But that's just the tip of the hook, er, iceberg.

I could tell by the struggle that fish put up, that he was in no way interested in joining me on the dock. Maybe they hear rumors about, "fish for dinner." Little did I know, what it was experiencing was fear. According to Verheijen, the fish I hook "suffer" less from pain than they do "fear." An experiment (how dare we experiment with fish) kept some previously caught fish on a taut line while others were held with a slack line. Those held on a slack line ate again soon after release, while those held taut, avoided food for a considerable time. Another indicator of "fish fear" is evident when after being hooked, a somewhat concerned carp began to show signs of "spitgas", prolonged spitting of gas from the swim bladder, resulting in its sinking when the line is slackened. Verheijen believes this indicates "a series of ongoing biochemical and physiological processes associated with fear."

And now more recent studies seem to verify earlier findings, and yet opponents of the "pain principle" are equally adamant, that nothing could be farther from the truth. The most recent study by the Scottish team suggests that fish have receptors on their skin and head which relay stimuli to the brain causing reflexes such as withdrawl (which I would probably attribute to being hooked through the mouth and pulled in a direction you didn't want to go). When injected with a bee venom, trout rubbed their lips and began to rock (like Madonna), which are typical reactions to the psychological experience of pain. Scientifically speaking, "noxious stimulation in the rainbow trout has adverse behavioral and physiological effects which fulfills the criteria for animal pain."

On the other hand, The International Association for the Study of Pain has argued that for a fish to experience pain, it is necessary to show, "that a fish has consciousness, since pain is a purely conscious experience. Fish physiologist James Rose from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, believes that the processing and transmission of information related to injury is unconscious and not pain. But then from the pages of "the cruelty of fishing" comes,

Fish constitute the greatest source of confused thinking and inconsistency on earth at the moment with respect to pain. You will get people very excited about dolphins because they are mammals, and about horses and dogs, if they are not treated properly. At the same time you will have fishing competitions on the River Murray at which thousands of people snare fish with hooks and allow them to asphyxiate on the banks, which is a fairly uncomfortable and miserable death.

Personally, I'm leery now of the ghosts of fishes past, for try as I might, I can't seem to erase the memory of that last fish I caught, with that one large solitary tear, inching down its sorrow ridden face.


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