Dr. Sylvia Earle, one of the world's leading
marine biologists, said, "I never eat anyone I know personally. I
wouldn't deliberately eat a grouper any more than I'd eat a cocker
spaniel. They're so good-natured, so curious. You know, fish are
sensitive, they have personalities, they hurt when they're wounded."
Many people have never stopped
to think about it, but fish are smart, interesting animals with
their own unique personalities�just like the dogs and cats we share
our homes with. Did you know that fish can learn to avoid nets by
watching other fish in their group and that they can recognize
individual "shoal mates"? Some fish gather information by
eavesdropping on others, and some�such as the South African fish who
lay eggs on leaves so that they can carry them to a safe place�even
recent issue of Fish and Fisheries, devoted to
learning, cited more than 500 research papers on fish
intelligence, proving that fish are smart, that they can use
tools, and that they have impressive long-term memories and
sophisticated social structures.
Scientists are starting to learn more and
more about our finned friends, and their discoveries are
A recent issue of Fish and Fisheries, devoted to
learning, cited more than 500 research papers on fish intelligence,
proving that fish are smart, that they can use tools, and that they
have impressive long-term memories and sophisticated social
structures. The introductory chapter said that fish are "steeped in
social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of
manipulation, punishment and reconciliation � exhibiting stable
cultural traditions and cooperating to inspect predators and catch
Culum Brown, a University of Edinburgh biologist who is studying
the evolution of cognition in fish, says, "Fish are more
intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their
cognitive powers match or exceed those of 'higher' vertebrates,
including non-human primates." Their long-term memories help
fish keep track of complex social relationships. Their spatial
memory�"equal in all respects to any other vertebrate"�allows them
to create cognitive maps that guide them through their watery homes,
using cues such as polarized light, sounds, smells, and visual
Dr. Phil Gee, a psychologist from the University of Plymouth,
says that fish can tell what time of day it is, and he trained fish
to collect food by pressing a lever at specific times. He says
"fish have a memory span of at least three months," and they
"are probably able to adapt to changes in their circumstances, like
any other small animals and birds."
"We're now finding that [fish] are very capable of learning and
remembering, and possess a range of cognitive skills that would
surprise many people."
�Dr. Theresa Burt de Perera, Oxford
"Australian crimson spotted rainbowfish, which learnt to escape
from a net in their tank, remembered how they did it 11 months
later. This is equivalent to a human recalling a lesson learnt 40
�Sunday Telegraph, Oct. 3, 2004
Being Hooked Hurts!
study conducted by scientists at Edinburgh University and the Roslin
Institute in the United Kingdom proved what many marine biologists
have been saying for years: Fish feel pain, just as all animals do.
Anglers may not like to think about it, but fish suffer when they
are impaled in the mouth and pulled into an environment in which
they cannot breathe. Said Dr. Lynne Sneddon, who headed the recent
study, "Really, it's kind of a moral question. Is your angling
more important than the pain to the fish?" If you fish or know
someone who does, click here to
Faux Fish or No
Fish suffer horribly on the journey from sea to
supermarket. Commercial fishing boats use huge nets, some stretching
for miles, which swallow up everything�and everyone�in their paths.
Fish come out of the nets with their skin scraped completely raw
from being forced to rub up against rocks, debris�and other
fish�trapped with them.
Fish flesh is frequently
contaminated with mercury (which can cause brain damage) and toxic
chemicals like DDT, PCBs, and dioxin (which have been linked to
cancer, nervous system disorders, and fetal damage), as well as
disease�causing bacteria. Why not try faux fish instead? Vegetarian
products like Worthington's Tuno (available in health food stores)
and mock lobster, shrimp, and crab (available online) have all the
taste of the "real thing"�but none of the cruelty or contaminants.
|DID YOU KNOW?
Fish talk to each other with squeaks, squeals, and other
low-frequency sounds that humans can hear only with special
Fish like to be touched and often gently rub against one
another�like a cat weaving in and out of your legs.
Some fish tend well-kept gardens, encouraging the growth of
tasty algae and weeding out the types they don't like.
Like birds, many fish build nests where they raise their babies;
others collect little rocks off the seafloor to make hiding places
where they can rest.
Some fish woo potential partners by singing to them, but male
sand gobies, tiny fish who live along the European coast, play "Mr.
Mom," building and guarding nests and fanning the eggs with their
fins to create a current of fresh, oxygenated water.
� Fish Feel Pain
� Free Vegetarian Starter
� Intro to
� "Meet Your
"Chew on This"
More "Hidden Lives"
� The Hidden Lives of Cows
Hidden Lives of Chickens
� The Hidden
Lives of Pigs
Hidden Lives of Turkeys
Hidden Lives of Ducks and Geese
Some Fish Are Too Clever to Catch!
� �According to the researchers, close encounters with nets in
early life can educate the fish to swim away from an approaching
trawler. . . . Emma Jones, a fish behaviorist at the Marine
Laboratory, said: �And if you have one fish that is a particularly
fast learner, the others will follow.��
(London), October 28, 2004