Fortunately, Dr.James D. Rose, a University of Wyoming professor of zoology, has researched this subject and recently published his findings in the "Reviews of Fishery Science (Vol. 10, No.1)." His article, "The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain," discusses whether fishes are capable of experiencing pain and suffering, the detrimental effects of anthropomorphic thinking, and the differences in central nervous system structure that underlie basic neurobehavioral differences between fishes and humans.

Unlike humans, fish do not use specific areas of the brain to recognize pain. According to Rose, because the experience of fear, similar to pain, depends on the cerebral cortical structures that are absent from fish brains, awareness of fear is impossible for fishes. Although it is implausible that fishes can experience pain or emotions, they can and do display what Rose calls "robust, nonconsious, neuroendocrine, and physiological stress responses to noxious stimuli." Essentially, a fish's reaction to being hooked is an escape response, not an indication they are feeling pain.

"Although it is concluded from the foregoing analysis that the experiences of pain and emotional distress are not within the capacity of fishes, this conclusion in no way devalues fishes or diminishes our responsibility for respectful and responsible stewardship of them," Rose said

Article used with permission by Carrie Wilson.
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