Fishing Conservation photo

By Joe Cermele

Whether or not not fish feel pain, or experience suffering during a fight, is a topic long debated among anglers, scientists, and animal rights activists. Well, according to a study carried out by Professor Jim Rose of the University of Wisconsin, anglers are finally off the hook so to speak, because his findings conclude that, in fact, fish do not experience pain or mental suffering. As it turns out, according to this article in the U.K. Daily Mail, “fish do not have a brain system or enough sensory receptors in the nerve cells to experience suffering.”


To reach these findings, Rose and his team carried out a battery of tests on trout in a tank, such as performing surgeries, and injecting the fish with acid and bee venom. From the story:

While fish may struggle to get free [of the hook]_, the scientists say this does not mean they are in pain. Instead, they show ‘little effect’ from injuries and toxins that would leave humans in agony._

‘In spite of large injections of acid or bee venom, that would cause severe pain to a human, the trout showed remarkably little effect,’ [Rose said]_. Fish also resumed normal activity within minutes of surgical procedures, as well as after being caught and released back into the water. Prof Rose added: ‘It is highly improbable that fish can experience pain._

Rose added:

_’We are not diminishing the importance of welfare considerations for fish, but we do reject the view that mental welfare is a legitimate concern.’ _

So what does this mean for anglers? Not much as far as I’m concerned. You know as well as I do within a few months, another study will conclude that fish feel pain like every other animal, so I’m not entirely sold on this whole study. If you read the story, you’ll see that PETA is already disputing the findings. But let’s say it’s true. That certainly should not be grounds to treat catches with any less respect than you have in the past.