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STUDY: Fish Struggle to Eat After Catch and Release

Catch-and-release fishing is when an angler catches a fish but then releases the animal back into the water alive. This “sport” is often thought of as harmless, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A new study from the University of California Riverside reveals that catch-and-release fishing actually has a serious impact on a fish’s ability to eat. Injuries caused by the sharp hook, especially removal of the hook from the fish’s mouth, reduce the animal’s ability to catch food.

Fish catch food by suction feeding, or quickly opening their mouths to suck in food. This is achieved by negative pressure, which is severely compromised by the hole in the fish’s mouth where the hook was ripped out. Tim Higham, UCR researcher, explained that the injury’s effect is similar to that of drinking through a straw with a hole poked in the side.

The researchers discovered that fish with hook injuries had “significantly reduced” feeding capabilities, which could lead to premature death. Trout, bass, and salmon—all fish commonly targeted by catch-and-release anglers—are among the fish who rely on suction feeding.

The truth is that fishing is unspeakably cruel. And while the scientific community has been slow to accept that fish feel pain, the vast majority of biologists and veterinarians now agree they do. In fact, fish are similar to dogs, cats, and other animals in their experience of pain and pleasure.

Sadly, fish aren’t granted any protections from cruelty. Not a single law protects fish in the United States, whether they’re raised as pets, research subjects, or food.

What’s more, fish raised and killed for food are put through hell. Fish factory farms are filthy and overcrowded, making them perfect breeding grounds for parasites. In 2016 an outbreak of sea lice stretched from Scandinavia to Chile. Nearly half of Scotland’s salmon farms became infested with the parasite, which feeds on blood, skin, and slime.

According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, salmon bred and raised at fish factory farms grow at such an accelerated rate that more than half go partially deaf. Another study found that many farmed salmon suffer from severe depression. Known as “drop outs,” depressed salmon float lifelessly.

In 2011 Mercy For Animals conducted an undercover investigation at a fish slaughter facility and exposed fish being skinned alive. They thrashed and fought to escape the workers’ knives. As the fish gasped for oxygen, workers ripped off their skin with pliers.

Sounds horrifying, right? See for yourself.


Of course, we must stop cruel catch-and-release fishing. But the best thing we can do to protect fish and all animals is to leave them off our plates. Order your FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide for help switching to a compassionate vegan lifestyle. And check out these cruelty-free, sea-inspired recipes.

Then read more about what you can do to help fish.