Case Studies in Fisheries Conservation and Management: Applied Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Case 30: Should We Eliminate Catch-and-Release Angling?

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874189.ch30

Several studies have attempted to determine whether or not fish feel pain. Proponents of this idea have argued that recreational angling (and catch-and-release angling in particular) causes pain and suffering in fish and should be eliminated. Opponents argue that recreational angling is justified because fish do not experience pain and suffering, at least not in a similar way as humans. Moreover, they argue that the definition of pain and suffering is anthropomorphic, and point out that fish lack a neocortex region in their brain and may not have the ability to experience pain. Because pain and suffering are difficult to quantify, or even define, Cooke and Sneddon (2007) attempt to change the focus of this debate from whether or not angling causes pain and suffering to how angling affects the “welfare” of fish. This approach focuses on the quantifiable science of the effects of angling and the growing body of literature available on this topic.

Review Animal Welfare Perspectives on Recreational Angling by Cooke and Sneddon (2007). Consider the following questions:

1. Define fish welfare. How does this definition differ from pain and suffering?
2. What are three ways that recreational angling can negatively affect fish welfare?
3. The authors reviewed several regulations that are designed to improve fish welfare (Tables 1 and 2 in Cooke and Sneddon 2007). They noted the degree of scientific support for each regulation. Which three regulations would be most accepted by anglers? Which three regulations would be the least accepted by anglers?