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Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


Much of the “fish pain debate” relates to how high the bar for pain should be set. The close phylogenetic affinities of teleosts with cartilaginous fishes which appear to lack nociceptors suggests caution should be applied by those who seek to lower the bar, especially given the equivocal and conflicting nature of the experimental data currently available for teleosts. Nevertheless, even if we assume fish “feel pain,” it is difficult to see how current best practice in aquaculture would change. This is because of the need to avoid stress at all stages of the rearing process to optimize health, growth performance and post-slaughter product quality. For recreational angling, while the capture process may be stressful, there are data that suggest it is not painful, and the stress can be minimised using current best practice guidelines for recreational fisheries. In commercial fisheries, however, changes to current best practices may be required for some activities if fish pain were resolved in the affirmative.

Author Biography

Ben Diggles ben@digsfish.com is an aquatic animal health specialist who for the last 25 years has studied various aspects relating to health, welfare and diseases of wild and captive fish, crustaceans and molluscs in both fisheries and aquaculture. Banksia Beach, QLD 4507, Australia http://www.digsfish.com/