Fish are incredible! As experts have shown, fish are emotional, intelligent beings—they have memories and form relationships with one another, and some even recognize themselves in a mirror. Despite this, fish have little to no legal protections, whether they are raised in industrial fish farms or caught in the wild.
Unfortunately, the fishing industry treats marine animals as commodities, disregarding their well-being. It’s time to recognize and value the lives of these sentient beings. Eating fish can also have negative consequences for your health and the environment. Here’s what you need to know.
How Does Eating Fish Harm Animals?
Fish Sentience: Scientific studies have found that fish have highly developed senses and mental abilities. In fact, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council—one of the leading organizations overseeing farmed marine animals—recently acknowledged that fish feel “pain, stress, and anxiety.” Tragically, many fish caught in the wild or raised in fish farms endure torturous deaths suffocating in nets or being sliced apart.
Aquaculture Concerns: Also known as fish farming, aquaculture poses numerous issues that cannot be ignored. Cramped living conditions for fish in intensive farming systems, excessive use of antibiotics, and the release of pollutants into surrounding waters all contribute to contamination and disease transmission, making this an unsustainable and unethical practice.
Further Harm: Aquaculture not only harms fish and the environment but also endangers the health and well-being of workers. Numerous reports have exposed the rampant exploitation, forced labor, and human trafficking of workers in the United States and abroad—particularly for migrant workers. Both humans and marine animals suffer terribly for the sake of the industry’s profits.
How Does Eating Fish Affect Your Health?
Eating fish may be getting riskier for humans. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine found that 25% of fish tested contained plastic in their digestive systems, and dietary shifts caused by overfishing may have increased the levels of methylmercury in fish consumed by humans. Exposure to methylmercury can damage the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.
How Does Eating Fish Harm the Environment?
Overfishing poses one of the greatest challenges to our oceans. With unsustainable fishing practices and growing demand, several fish populations are being exhausted at a faster rate than they can replenish. This imbalance is causing a disruption to the delicate marine ecosystem, which has significant consequences for the entire food chain.
Bycatch: The use of industrial fishing methods leads to the accidental entrapment of non-targeted species, commonly known as bycatch. This includes dolphins, whales, turtles, and other marine creatures, resulting in their injury, suffocation, or death. Bycatch poses a serious and imminent threat to the biodiversity and stability of marine ecosystems.
Habitat Destruction: Fishing techniques like bottom trawling entail dragging heavy nets across the ocean floor, harming fragile coral reefs and other vital habitats. These methods obliterate the homes of many marine species and further deplete biodiversity.
What Can You Do?
“Most of the oxygen that you breathe and everybody breathes is generated by the ocean, which absorbs much of the carbon dioxide. No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us.”
—Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, Mission Blue documentary
The fishing industry has caused significant environmental devastation through overfishing, bycatch, and habitat destruction. Ethical concerns over fish sentience and unsustainable aquaculture practices also persist. Choosing plant-based options can help preserve our oceans and the delicate balance of marine life. If you’re looking for delicious vegan recipes and helpful tips, be sure to check out ChooseVeg.com and download our FREE How to Eat Veg guide.