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Fish Welfare?

Like millions of our boating customers across the country, fishing’s my passion. So, when there’s a call to address fish suffering, including efforts to “protect their mental well-being,” it grabs my attention and I just got to share it.

The claim is coming from Great Britain right now. But it wouldn’t be surprising if some group, say the People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals, picks it up on this side of the pond. 

Here, then, is the rest of this story:

An animal welfare group backed by Carrie Symonds, the fiancée of Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is leading a call for action to tackle fish suffering, according to reports by Sean Poulter, consumer affairs editor for London’s Daily Mail. A study published by the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation threatens to upset Britain's millions of recreational fishermen by raising concerns about hook injuries and stress. Even the stocking of ornamental fish, like goldfish and koi carp in garden ponds, can be a source of suffering, they claim. 

Fish are not being given the same attention as other animals, the CAWF contends. Much of the group’s focus is on Britain’s fish farms that produce 28 to 77 million fish, and commercial fishing interests estimated at 1.5 to 2.7 billion fish annually. 

But recreational fishing isn’t left out. 

CAWF contends recreational angling causes fish to suffer from hook injuries, stress and even crowding when stored in buckets. Although the group admits it has no official statistics for recreational angling, they contend that, “It is unlikely that every angler properly stuns the fish they catch to eat, meaning that fish may still be conscious while asphyxiating or being gutted!” 

Ornamental fishponds aren’t off the hook, either. CAWF says: “The import and transport of ornamental fish cause serious harm as they are deprived of food and oxygen while being stored and handled roughly in small plastic containers for days at a time.”

Sean Poulter also reports the CAWF argues: “Fishing gear was not designed with fish welfare in mind, and frequently stresses, injures and kills fish before slaughter.” They also say their study raises concerns about baitfish which are caught or farmed to be used as bait for a target species. 

“'Baitfish often spend days or weeks in crowded confinement before being hooked and thrown into the water,” says CAWF. “Either of these outcomes involves prolonged fear, stress and physical injury.” 

Now, having all this wisdom from the U.K., I’m already wondering how I’m going to feel when I put out my live bait and boat my next kingfish or grouper? On second thought, I’ll just put them on ice in the cooler. Then I’ll again bait up my hook with a baitfish suffering from prolonged fear while I think about my tasty dinner ahead!

On the other hand, maybe this whole British concern is just a publicity stunt, an idea borrowed from here in the U.S. It reminds me of the time here when PETA vigorously campaigned to have all fish renamed “sea kittens” because, they contended, no one would want to hook a kitten —  I just can’t figure out why that idea never caught on.

But in the interest of complete transparency, I am also a member of PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) and, for the record, I prefer my sea kittens deep fried!

Good fishin’ to you!

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