Need some convincing that fish are fab and deserve to be left in the ocean instead of on a plate? Look no further than the fish facts below as we share why #FishAreFriendsToo!
Fish are sentient beings! According to the insightful book ‘What A Fish Knows’ by Jonathan Balcombe, studies have shown that fish can feel pain and pleasure, and have individual personalities, just like other animals. Some fish have even been known to approach divers in hopes of being touched and caressed.
Fish are super smart! Although they have small brains (relative to their body size), studies have shown that individual fish can remember events, tasks, tests, other fish, and even recognise human individuals, for months and even years, smashing apart the myth that fish only have three- to four-second memories. Jonathan Balcombe told The Animals Voice that during one study, cleaner fish even outscored great apes (chimpanzees and orangutans) and monkeys (and a fish researcher’s four-year-old daughter) on a cognitive task involving ephemeral and permanent food sources.
Fish are team players! Research conducted on reefs, showed that a hungry grouper fish will use a headshake signal to recruit a moray eel to go hunting. Working as a pair, they each have higher per capita hunting success than hunting alone. Groupers will also point to hidden prey, seeking to get the eel’s attention.
Fish have communication skills too! Fish have ear parts inside of their heads and can pick up sounds in the water through their bodies and in their internal ear. Some fish, such as some species of carp and herring, hear through their swim bladders, which function rather like a hearing aid. And not only can fish hear noises, they can make them too… They do not have vocal chords, but they can growl, bark, click, hum, whistle and croak. They also communicate through body language, and herrings are thought to communicate by, uhm, farting.
Fishing doesn’t just affect fish! Not too fussed about tuna or carp? Well, according to Cowspiracy, scientists estimate that as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins, and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels, 40-50 million sharks are killed in fishing lines and nets, and for every one pound of fish caught, up to five pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill. In fact, abandoned fishing gear, such as nets and cages, is doing more damage to the ocean than single-use plastic, like straws and bottles.
Fish suffer on factory farms too! According to PETA, “Nearly 50% of fish consumed in Britain come from farms, where they endure intense confinement, filthy conditions, mistreatment and high levels of disease and parasites such as sea lice. Kept in underwater cages, these fish never have the chance to swim freely or exercise their natural instincts. And they may be killed by being bludgeoned with a bat or having their gills cut without stunning. Fish farmers lace fish feed with chemicals and antibiotics in an attempt to counteract the harmful effects of severe crowding and with drugs that unnaturally accelerate growth.”
The fish you order at a restaurant may not be the fish you think it is! Fish biologist, Laura McDonnell explained in an article that several well-publicised studies have shown that the fillets served up on restaurant plates often don’t match what’s listed on the menus. For example, escolar, often called “white tuna” on sushi menus, is a snake mackerel that’s routinely substituted for many different fish.
And some fish are poisonous to humans! In Japan, ‘fugu’ or puffer fish, is a delicacy that contains tetrodotoxin, a deadly poison and chefs must have a certificate from a special school that teaches preparation of this toxic fish so as not to kill diners. Fish also absorb a toxic mixture of bacteria, contaminants and heavy metals which can then be passed along to anybody who eats them, and there is also a currently a big debate about whether microplastics ingested by fish can harm the humans that eat them.
Our ecosystem relies on fish and a healthy ocean! Eating fish at the rate we are is just not sustainable. It’s been estimated by scientists that by 2048, the oceans could be bare affecting everything on planet earth; plants, animals, AND us humans.
There are lots of innovative alternative options available in supermarkets and restaurants! If you think you’ll be missing out on omega-3 essential fatty acids by going vegan, don’t worry because it can be found in walnuts, flaxseeds, soya beans, and cauliflower. And if you are worried about missing out on the taste or texture of your favourite fish dish, there are now plenty of vegan alternatives available in mainstream restaurants and supermarkets; from ‘tuna’ to ‘fish’ fingers to ‘fish’ n chips. Keep an eye on our blog for some amazing fish alternatives coming up over the next couple of days and try out some delicious recipes here.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends so they can learn some fishy facts about our watery pals. Use the hashtag #FishAreFriendsToo on social media to join the conversation!
Fancy going fish-free? Sign up to take the Veganuary pledge today!
Read more on our blog about the wonders of sea creatures. Did you know – prawns have personalities too?