Is Fishing Cruel? [Here is My Opinion]

Is Fishing Cruel

Recreational activities that include animals have always been a little bit controversial. From hunting and fishing, to even riding horses. But is it really that bad?

Is it the same as shooting wolves in the forest? And is there any difference between commercial fishing and recreational one?

Some people ask me is fishing cruel, and I usually say that it depends on circumstances, at least in my opinion. If you obey all the rules and regulations, and practice catch and release, you are not doing any harm. The same goes for (responsible) fishing for food.

You may or may not agree with me, but I decided to write this short article about my viewpoint in regard to recreational fishing.

Of course, everything has its limits, and there is a border you should not cross if you care about fish and the ecosystem.

I also want to clarify some misconceptions about fish not feeling pain and similar myths that are very common if fishing communities.



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Is [Sport] Fishing Cruel?

So, is fishing cruel and in what circumstances?

Sports fishing is a form of outdoor recreation where anglers catch various game fish for entertainment purposes. It can be catch and release (I will mention it later on) or you can keep the fish for lunch. This form of fishing is strictly regulated around the world. By catching lees than allowed limits, by returning unharmed juvenile fish into the water, and by keeping only you what you will eat for lunch, you are not doing any harm to the ecosystem. This is important because fish feed on smaller organisms and larger ones are feeding on fish, so you don’t want to mess with the food chain.

Of course, some of the fish will end up dead, but I don’t think its cruel if you will eat it. We eat both aquatic and land animas on a daily basis, and that fish at least had a happy life and wasn’t grown in some horrible farm. And it is healthier to eat.

When compared to commercial fishing, recreational angling is nothing. One commercial vessel in the ocean will catch more fish than any angler could ever do in their lifetime. That has a huge impact to the ecosystem. There is a lot of bycatch that includes protected species. Some fishing nets are very bad for the environment and destroy habitats. And this has a huge influence on other marine and land organisms. Overfishing of the oceans is a big problem, and killing all that fish, small and big, dolphins, sharks, and other bycatch is cruel.

Responsible fishing for food in smaller quantities is fine, and it has no large influence on anything. It is mostly done in smaller communities living on the coast or nearby rivers, and the catch is used to feed the community.

So, you could say cruelty of fishing depends on your definition of cruel and about fishing methods.

Is Catch and Release Fishing Cruel?

Is catch and release fishing cruel is an interesting question asked by many people who are not into fishing. Catch and release, if done right, is not cruel. I’m not saying it is nice for fish, but it is not exactly torturing it.

For catch and release, you must use hooks that are not barbed. You should have dehooking tools, landing nets to safely land the fish, and unhooking mat so that you can handle the fish gently. In order to prevent injuries, lower the stress level of the fish, and make sure that it survives when released, you must unhook it and return it in the water as fast as possible.

If done like this, I would say that it is not cruel. Fishing is the only “reversible” form of capturing a living thing. When you shoot an animal on land, it is dead, and can’t be returned into nature. When you catch a fish, you can let it go, and do no harm to the ecosystem.

Those who are lazy, have no nets or unhooking mats, and who injure fish during hook removal are either inexperienced or cruel. As an angler I enjoy releasing unharmed fish, especially large and healthy ones, so that they can reproduce and create abundant fish populations.

And one more thing - don't forgent to buy fishing license even for catch and release ...

Is Fishing Cruel - Catch and Release

Does Fishing and Releasing Hurt the Fish?

As already described, if done right, no serious harm is done. But, if done wrongly, it can cause injuries and lower the survival chances.

Hooks for catch and release are not barbed and are made in a way that they prevent deep hooking. These hooks will pierce just the fish mouth, and you can simply slide the hook out.

When handling fish, never put it on the ground. Ground can damage their skin, eyes, and gills. Always pay special attention to gills.

Fish can’t breathe out of the water, and you have to return it into the water fast. Take a picture and gently release it. Never throw it, let it back slowly and easily.

If you know how to do it, no permanent harm will be done to the fish.

Do Fishes Even Feel the Pain When Hooked?

I have heard that fish do not feel pain numerous times, and that simply makes no sense. Do fish feel pain or not is a common debate, but logically, they have to feel it.

Fish have a nervous system, and react to discomfort and pain. This is an evolutionary trait. When something hurts or feel uncomfortable, you avoid it to survive. But, as they have different nervous system than land animals, their perception of pain may not be the same as ours.

Many species of fish actually have nociceptors, which are neurons that can be described as pain receptors. They generate automatic responses, similar to those when you accidentally burn yourself and twitch an arm upon contact with hot surfaces.

Concentration of those neurons varies from one fish specie to another, and also varies across the body.

They may not feel emotional pain, but they most certainly feel the physical one. Various research had ben conducted to prove this, and scientist agree that they can actually feel pain.

What About Fishing for Food? Is it Cruel?

Is fishing for food cruel depends on a type of fishing and consumerism around the world. It is a broad subject that involves so many variables that I could write a book about it. But I’ll try to keep it simple and short.

If you catch a trout and eat it, no, it is not cruel. If you use small nets to catch enough to feed your family and sell a bit to your neighbours, no, it is not cruel.

But, if you are trawling over coral reefs and killing everything in front of you, then yes, it is cruel. But you can’t blame the fishermen who are doing it. If there was no demand, there would be no problem. Fish is tasty, healthy, and people from around the world want to eat it. It is simply not sustainable.

Try buying fish from small and local fisheries on fish markets, even if it costs more. Support sustainable fishing.

Commercial fishing is cruel because it does huge damage not only to fish populations, but to many other animals. Sea lions and birds have no fish to catch. Corals depend on fish to survive. And as an angler, I can see how fish populations, especially in seas and oceans, decrease year after year.

When you compare catch and release recreational fishing with that large scale commercial fishing, you will probably conclude that it is not cruel, despite the fact that it causes certain discomfort for caught fish.

Is Fishing Cruel - Food



Is fishing cruel or not is a common debate among people. In my opinion, if done right, it is not cruel. Of course, there are cruel forms of fishing that do a real harm to the ecosystem, as well as to fish that got caught.

People have to eat, and if you are fishing to feed you and your family, it is perfectly fine. It is also ok to fish for fun, and release the fish unharmed.

But, if you are using unlawful fishing methods, you are keeping more than allowed or more than you can eat, or you are torturing fish, then it is cruel, and I do not support those activities!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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