In the wild capture fishery sector, an old and conservative sector, fish welfare is not on the agenda. The capture experience of wild fish is typically violent and lasts for up to several hours.
The various methods of capture all subject fish to injury or distress. Fish may be left to starve for days on the end of a long line or in a trap where they are vulnerable to attacks from predators, or be crushed to death in the pressure of a large commercial trawl net with thousands of other fish. Gill nets snare fish by the gills, and they are unable to free themselves.
Removing fish from their aquatic home subjects them to pain and suffering as their gills collapse preventing breathing, and their internal organs burst as a result of the dramatic change in pressure from rising to the surface. Fish may be hit on the head to cause unconsciousness, sometimes multiple times, as revealed by our member Animal Equality’s exposé of the tuna industry, or have their gills sliced open and be left to bleed to death while still conscious. Most frequently, they are left to suffocate over a period of hours. If they survive this, they are often gutted alive.
The non-selective nature of many fishing methods, in particular trawling, means that non-target animals such as other fish, marine mammals and other living creatures can be caught in large numbers. These animals are considered “bycatch”, with no commercial value, and are often simply cast back into the sea, dead or dying. Their living environments are destroyed, polluted and encroached upon not only by the fishing industry but by shipping, extractive industries and increasingly, windmills at sea.
Fish killed for human consumption are so numerous and so poorly documented that it is impossible to place an exact figure on the number of deaths. The best estimate is that between 830 billion and two trillion four hundred billion fish per year are wild-caught globally.