Daily Smart Fact

Your daily dose of smart. So you don't feel so dumb.

Daily Smart Fact #19: Fish can feel pain, you murdering murderer

with 2 comments

Key Takeaway: UK scientists have found “conclusive evidence” that fish do feel pain.  But what does this mean?  And does anyone care?

I don’t go out looking for information about fish (like I do birds), nor do I find fish articles to be that particularly interesting – however, I never really put thought into the question “do fish feel pain?” but it looks like a lot of other people have.

In 2003, some British scientists did some studies on trout and determined that fish DO feel pain.  (BBC source) They injected bee venom in the lips of trout (haha, trout lips) and regular saline solution in the control group’s lips.  The trouts who had bee venom exhibited signs of stress and more importantly, kept rubbing their lips on the gravel floor – a response that was not a “reflexive response.”  Also, it took them 3 times longer to resume feeding than the control group.

It is important to note that although this study may show that fish can “feel” pain, the question still remains “what does it mean to feel pain?”  In order to feel pain, do you need the brain capacity to register pain as a psychological experience or is a physiological response to pain enough?

Whatever the answer might be, what does this mean for us fish eaters?  It may not mean much unless you were eating fish only because you thought they didn’t feel pain.  In that case, congratulations to you.

But more importantly, what implications does this have on sports fishing.  If its now shown that fish do feel pain, are you damaging and ultimately causing pain to fish for your own enjoyment?  I’m honestly not very passionate about this subject but I find these scientific findings and their implications quite intriguing.

What do you think?

Written by Bea

June 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Biology

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Are there any studies on whether fish get bored or not? I’ve wondered about that question a lot when looking at fish swimming around in an aquarium. Some goldfish can live more than 20 years. Do these fish get bored if they spend their entire life swimming back and forth in the same aquarium?

    David Park

    June 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

    • Hey David,

      Great question! You know, I don’t know if anyone’s done any studies on whether or not fish get “bored.” I would imagine its hard to define that. My initial thought would be that fish need the brain capacity and memory to know enough in order to get bored (e.g. they recognize they’ve been doing the same thing for more than 30 seconds…staring at the same plankton for 2 hours, etc). I will say this, I’ve heard that fish who are coupled with a companion fish tend to live longer in captivity than fish who live by themselves. http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums/f11/do-fish-get-bored-23468.html That probably helps with a totally different question around loneliness and companionship…but hope that helps!



      June 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm

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