fishcount.org.uk has argued that the suffering of fish in commercial fishing could be reduced by fishing at lower, and more sustainable, levels and by measures to reduce the suffering caused by each capture method. fishcount.org.uk argues that such measures also bring potential quality benefits to the fishing industry.
Fishing more sustainably has a clear long term benefit to both fishers and consumers, and is likely to increase the overall economic benefit from fisheries. In a number of fisheries the fishers have volunteered to accept catch reductions knowing it would lead to higher prices and lower costs of fishing. The use of bycatch reduction measures and devices, as well as helping fish stocks and reducing suffering of fish and other animals, can benefit fishers by reducing the time spent sorting and discarding.
fishcount.org.uk proposes some possible measures to reduce the suffering of fish which can be summarized as follows:
- speeding up the capture process, shorter net and line soak times, trawl times etc.
- modifications to gear and handling practice to reduce injury and distress
- methods for humane slaughter
- avoidance of live bait and purpose killed dead bait
- choosing more humane capture methods
Reducing injury during capture will improve carcass quality and reduce risk of spoilage. Reducing stress at slaughter is also likely to improve eating quality, as has been found for farmed fish. In some long line and trolling fisheries, the relatively humane slaughter method of spiking is used soon on landing in order to improve the flesh quality by reducing the pre-slaughter activity. Reportedly the only wild salmon producer which uses humane slaughter technology, “Wild Salmon direct”1, is proud of its humane slaughter and of the resulting “unparalleled” quality (see wild salmon direct).
All measures to improve the welfare of wild-caught fish potentially add value to the fish product by increasing the ethical value. Ethical consumers will pay extra for more humanely produced fish.
1. Note that fishcount.org.uk has not carried out any welfare assessment regarding Wild Salmon Direct – we simply report the video and statements on their website that state they are using humane slaughter technology.