We are dedicated to banning angling. We were established in 1981 following the publishing of the Medway Report which concluded that fish can feel pain and have the ability to suffer.
Our work consists of publicity, education, and direct action. Click on the links below to access details of our campaigns, our comprehensive factsheets and details of the scientific evidence regarding fish and pain at zoo de beauval prix.
“A study of trout fishing in New Zealand reveals for the first time that fish in popular waters stay out of anglers’ sight and avoid bait while fish in less popular waters fall for the bait. John Hayes and Roger Young of the Cawthron Institute investigated the phenomenon after veteran anglers complained that fish are harder to catch. The researchers asked two experienced anglers to visit a popular hole on the Owen River and a remote river of the Kahurangi National Park on four fishing trips over a single season. Despite the same amount of fish per river, the savvy fish from the Owen were far more difficult to land. Only 58 were caught in the Owen, compared with 157 in the remote river.” (source: ENN, 29th August, 2000)
This is more proof that fish learn to be wary of anglers. Why would they be wary if they could not feel pain or have only a short term memory? This study is matched by reports from anglers elsewhere in the world. It is obvious that fish do have good reason to fear the fishermen.
Fish are among the many thousands of animals being tortured at Huntingdon Life Sciences. Check out the campaign to shut down this hellhole at http://www.shac.net/ The HLS shareholder list can be found at http://www.freespeech.org/sharelist - these are the people making the money from animal torture so let them know what you think.
Livebaiting - sign the petition online at Virunga.Org or Petition-Them.
Stop the Slaughter of Cormorants - updated April 2000
Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review Group - May 2000
Some Fishy Facts
Angling - a cruel bloodsport.
When a fish is caught…
Who are the CAA then?
The RSPCA and fishing
How YOU can help.
Freda the Fish “…a tale from the fish farm”
Tackle, litter - the angler dumps it all.
The story of Walter the Pigeon
Fish Farming and Commercial Fishing
Pain and Stress in Fish
RSPCA Policies on Angling
Do Pain and Fear make a Hooked Carp in Play Suffer?
The Welfare of Fish and Aquatic Invertebrates
Countering Anglers’ Arguments
Background to Angling
Extracts from the Medway Report on Shooting and Angling
Angling and Its Effects on the Environment
Achieving a Local Authority Ban on Angling
Useful Quotes About Angling
Commercial Fishing, Fish Farming, and Fish Eating
How You Can Help the Campaign Against Angling
Travel Sickness - Native fish threatened by anglers’ fish imports.
Tactics for Sabbing Angling
Writing to the Press and dealing with The Media
Extracts from Pisces Magazine: Spring 1999; Summer 1999.
CAA related merchandise, t-shirts, video
How You Can Help The Campaign Against Angling
Local Authority Bans on Angling
Other bans on Angling
Feedback details of various organisations to write to on issues connected with fish and angling.
Images of tackle victims:
Goose with tackle in mouth
(352 K) X-ray of birds with swallowed
angling tackle (186 K)
Duck with tackle in mouth
(13 K) X-ray of bird with swallowed
angling tackle (383 K)
Dead Fish (18K) Fish used as Live Bait (11K)
Coarse Fishing is by far the most popular branch of angling and is also known as coarse angling, but the former term tends to be the more commonly used. Coarse fish are the prey and are largely inedible. They include all freshwater fish except salmon, trout and grayling.
Types of angler Anglers have a variety of reasons for going angling and they are split in to three main categories:
Pleasure angler – an angler who is considered not to take the ‘sport’ too seriously and who fishes infrequently. They fish for any species/size of fish.
Specimen angler – an angler who devotes his/her time to pursuing exceptionally large fish of a particular species.
Match angler – this is someone who takes part in organised competitive fishing whereby anglers compete with one another to catch the highest total weight in a given time.
Close Season Other than for game fish, freshwater fishing is prohibited between 15th March and 15th June on rivers, streams and other moving waters, (originally to allow the fish a respite during their spawning season when it was common for anglers to eat their catch). Canals have the same close season, except some in the South West and North West of the UK though this is currently under threat. Since 1995, the close season has been scrapped on all stillwaters, (ponds, lakes and reservoirs).
Licences and Tickets/Permits In order to fish in freshwater the angler must purchase a National Rod Licence issued by Environment Agency (available from post offices and by phone). This does not automatically give the angler access to any water. Where a lake, river, canal or reservoir is privately owned, a ticket to fish (day, week or season) is required. Fishing Clubs and Associations have access to waters either through leasing their own or coming to an agreement with owners.
Fish Commonly sought-after freshwater fish include pike, roach, perch, rudd, dace, bleak, bream, tench, barbel, carp and chub.
Tackle The following main items of tackle enable the angler to practise the ‘sport’:
Rod – these have a reel (for holding the line) unless they are poles, where the line is fixed to its end.
Nylon line – Virtually non-biodegradable and very strong. Thus lost and discarded line remains a hazard to wildlife for a very long time.
Lead – It is now illegal to use all sizes of lead between 0.06 and 28.35 grams (1oz). There are non-lead alternatives to lead weights within this range.
Hooks – These can be either barbed or barbed (the latter which cause less injury to fish and are compulsory on many waters). There are many variations in size, including double and treble hooks.
Forceps and disgorgers – Used by anglers to extract hooks from fish which are difficult to remove by hand.
Landing net – A bag-like net (triangular or circular) attached to a handle of varying lenght. Used to lift fish out of the water and onto the bank, thereby reducing strain on rod and line and on the fish; though not all anglers will use one, something which is not good for the fish.
Keepnet – This is a long mesh net, used by many anglers to imprison fish underwater during a match or until the end of a pleasure session. Keepnets can: cause damage to mucous layer and scales; transfer disease from fish to fish and one water to another; lead to deoxygenation of the water when not properly staked out; cause small fish to be crushed when it is lifted out of the water.
Bait The following baits are used:
Maggots – The larva or grub of the fly. The most commonly used bait. It may be dyed with colouring agents. Impaled live on to the hook. Casters (the chrysalis) are also used.
Common foodstuffs – Bread, sweetcorn, cheese, seeds (including hemp and barley), boilies (lumps of food).
Worms – Including earthworms, mealworms and bloodworms. Impaled live on to the hook.
Livebait – Refers to the use of small live fish, usually impaled on treble hooks to attract predatory fish.
Deadbaits – The same as livebait, but dead.
Terminology Additional commonly used terms include:
‘swim’ – an area of water in which the angler concentrates.
‘peg’ – an area of the bank allocated to an angler participating in a competition.
‘ground baiting’ – any “free” offerings of bait, thrown or catapulted into the swim to get fish feeding. Over use of ground bait can lead to the uneaten excess rotting and polluting the water.
‘pre-baiting’ – as above but some time before starting to fish.
‘casting’ – using the action of the rod to place the bait in the desired spot.
‘bite’ – indicating a fish showing interest in a bait.
‘strike’ – lifting the rod sharply in order to drive the hook ‘home’ when the fish is toying or playing with the bait.
‘snag’ – the line or hook being caught on something, which can lead to snapped lines and lost tackle, endangering wildlife.
‘playing’ – a hooked fish may be ‘played’ in order to tire it and thereby making it easier to ‘land’.
‘foul-hooking’ – hooking a fish somewhere other than through the lips, e.g., through flesh or eyes.
‘landing’ – the act of lifting the fish from the water.
‘weigh-in’ – at the end of a match, when fish are tipped from the keepnet into a weighing basket.
This form of angling is practised from the shore, piers, rocks, harbour walls or boats. Traditionally, it is unusual for sea anglers to return any of their catch alive to the water as most species may be eaten, although some clubs are returning some fish as a gesture towards conserving stocks.
Types of angler There are two types of sea anglers:
match – competitive fishing is widespread with the fish usually being weighed-in dead.
Close season There is no close season for sea fishing.
Licences/permits There is no requirement for a rod licence, although permits may be required to fish from certain areas, such as piers.
Fish The sea angler fishes for a wide variety of species, but is on the whole less able than the coarse angler to determine by bait, site and method the precise quarry that will be caught. Commonly sought-after species include cod, ling, pollack, plaice, bass, conger eel, turbot and shark.
Tackle Similar to that used in freshwater fishing, but stouter in order to cope with the pull of the tide, nature of the seabed and often sharp teeth of fish. A gaff (a huge sharp hook on a handle), is impaled through the flesh of large fish (particularly sharks) to ease landing.
Bait The most popular bait is lugworm. Also used are ragworm, mackerel, squid, sandeel, peeler crab and shellfish. Live baiting is common.
Shark fishing Undoubtedly the most objectionable form of sea angling, shark fishing is intensely cruel, brutal and totally unnecessary. It requires a powerful rod and hook sizes 7-10 cm in length. ‘Rubby dubby’, a foul-smelling concoction of pulped fish, bran and perhaps blood from slaughterhouses, is thrown into the water as a shark attractor. Large numbers of mackerel, pollack or other sea creatures are used as bait, often impaled live on the hook.
Those fish that are to die are brought, exhausted, alongside the boat to be gaffed. A rope is fastened around the tail and it is hauled aboard. It is then left to suffocate or beaten on the nose until it dies. Those to be released are drawn close to the boat and the line is cut so that the fish (complete with hook) is set free. Some are now tagged, giving anglers a record of how far the shark travels and its life-span, but many do not survive for long after this process.
“…a shark will vomit up everything in an attempt to get rid of the hook which is causing him pain…Blue sharks in particular, come aboard with their entire stomach hanging unpleasantly outside their jaws…”
Trevor Houseby, in Big Game Fishing
This is still thought of as a rather elitist type of angling, due to the skill required to cast the fly to the fish and the cost. It is usual to kill game fish to eat, returning only undersized specimens.
Types of angler Most game anglers take part for pleasure and to eat the catch, although an increasing number of game matches are occurring.
Close season Salmon, 31st Oct to 1st Feb; Trout, 30th Sept to 1st March. There is no close season for rainbow trout (non-native species), which allows fisheries to stay open all year round just by stocking these fish. ‘Any-method’ trout fisheries are proliferating, offering ‘trout fishing’ to all types of angler. It is recognised that coarse anglers catch coarse fish at these waters during the coarse close season, although it is illegal.
Licences/Permits Different licences are required for catching salmon and trout and are much more expensive than coarse licences. Permits or day tickets are required on all waters, with only a certain number of fish allowed.
Fish The quarry of the freshwater game fisherman are the salmon, sea trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and to a lesser extent, grayling.
Tackle and Bait Artificial ‘flies’ are made from materials such as fur, feathers, silk, wool and tinsel wrapped around a hook. Rods with reels are used. It is usual to land trout in a landing net. Salmon are usually landed by the use of a gaff (as are pike and large sea fish). Fish are killed by a blow on the head with a stick, stone or specially designed club known as a ‘priest’.
Stocking of fisheries As most game fish are killed when caught, the fisheries are repeatedly re-stocked from fish farms. In addition to fish welfare and other problems, such farms practise considerable vermin control, including destruction of predatory fish and fish-eating birds.
CAA Information Sheet H
Angling is still such a popular pastime that we have a long way to go before we see a strong change in public opinion. It is up to every one of us to do whatever they can to bring the subject to the forefront whenever possible. No matter how much or little you can do, it really will make a difference.
Here is what you can do:
Between 1976 and 1979, the RSPCA sponsored an inquiry into angling and shooting, published as the Medway Report. The Report concluded that all vertebrates (animals with backbones) including fish, are able to experience pain to one degree or another. They also agreed that there is no reason to differentiate between warm-blooded and cold-blooded creatures (fish are cold-blooded). The Report added that angling inflicts injury, causes pain and trauma to the fish and even if the fish is to be returned to the water, death can still result from handling. Even when using wet hands an angler will remove the protective outer mucous layer, leaving the fish open to infection when returned to the water.
Some anglers will come up with the comment that the National Federation of Anglers (NFA) discredited the Medway Report, but the NFA are obviously not an unbiased organisation and the report used to justify this is a literature review which does not actually state that fish cannot feel pain. Meanwhile the RSPCA still puts forward the recommendations given in the Medway Report. The RSPCA had a follow up review in 1994 by Dr Kestin, which did not show any need to change the current policy. Another comment is that fishes brain’s have a small cerebral cortex (where pain perception is based), but that area is also concerned with higher thinking, memory, etc., so no conclusions can be made from that observation alone.
In 1988 and 1992 two reports were published on the work done in Utrecht in the Netherlands into fish and pain. Scientists gave fish electric shocks, finding that they react in a comparable way and with similar pain thresholds to human subjects. The conclusion was that fish are definitely able to feel pain and that they experience considerable fear when caught by an angler. They also said that livebaiting is extremely cruel because of the prolonged stress involved.
Note that a vivisector would need a Home Office licence under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to do the same things to a fish in a laboratory, as an angler does to fish on the river bank.
Coarse anglers (the majority in the UK) make a great deal of the “fact” that unlike sea and game anglers, they return their victims ostensibly unharmed. They delude themselves! Coarse fishing is probably cruelest branch of the “sport”.
When a fish is caught, it is deceived into impaling itself on a (usually) barbed hook, which inflicts an injury. The angler often “plays” the fish to wear it out and make it easier to land. The fish is then dragged into a suffocating, alien environment and handled which (even with wet hands as is recommended by anglers) removes the invisible outer “mucus layer” which provides the creature’s waterproofing, leaving it open to infection when returned to the water. Swallowed hooks prolong the suffering and are likely to result in damage to the fish’s gut and possible death. The time out of water is prolonged by those who want to photograph their victims, with the incentive of fame in one of the angling magazines who pay cash for notable or record catches. If the fish survives the ordeal of being caught, it is either returned to the water, where it must devote its energy to recovery, or is held prisoner in the unhealthy environment of a keepnet.
Anglers go to great lengths to disguise hooks with maggots, fake flies, etc. to trick the fish into “biting”. Many anglers will admit that it requires unusual skill to entice a fish which has been repeatedly caught to take a baited hook. Although the fish may become wary if the same type of bait is used, it does have to feed to survive. Anglers also speak of fish learning to be wary of them, direct evidence that the fish are not as stupid as they like to make out.
Fish will fight vigourously when hooked because they are unable to make the connection between the hook and the angler. Frenzied struggle is the result of fear of the unknown (or for those who remember being caught, fear of being dragged out of tlhe water) and their inherent will to survive.
This is one of the angler’s strongest arguments although its substance is far from concrete. Animals tend to avoid anything which gives them the sensation of pain. Therefore, it cannot be harmful for a pike to eat a perch with sharp gill covers and dorsal fins and for a donkey to eat thistles, (which humans would find painful), but we don’t conclude that donkeys can’t feel pain. It is unreasonable for an angler to consequently assume that a hook does not produce a degree of pain. A hook inflicts a deep injury; often completely penetrating a lip. The wound is aggravated by the often prolonged tension of the fishing line. Additionally, the hook may be swallowed and become caught on an internal organ or the fish may be “foulhooked” in another part of its body. It has been known for the eye of a fish to be pierced from the inside.
Wildlife and Environment
See also factsheet D.
6. “Anglers are conservationists and without them there would be no fish.”
Although it is true that some anglers do good work monitoring the waterways, cleaning up fisheries or taking polluters to court (primarily the Anglers Cooperative Association), they are vastly outweighed by those who harm the environment. Tackle is lost or discarded (see point 7) and litter is left behind, including jagged bait cans lethal to wildlife and food which attracts rats to the fishery. Maggots contaminated with Salmonella and Botulism have proved fatal to wildfowl. Trampling of vegetation often turns banks into mudslides, while the excessive use of groundbait (catapulted into the water to attract fish to the angler’s “swim” rots, polluting the water.
Additionally, there are many real environmentalists such as the conservation volunteers, who do lots of useful work and not just in areas containing fish. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is among groups who own waters managed to protect all the wildlife. Additionally, the Environment Agency has a statutory duty to maintain the waters they administer.
Claims about the welfare of fish appear particularly hollow when you examine the angling fraternity’s obsession with certain large fish species which are hatchery reared on special diets and put in often overstocked fisheries, where overcrowding is exacerbated by the stress of repeated capture. Huge carp and catfish are being imported from abroad to satisfy the specimen anglers, while scientists are genetically manipulating fish to get fatter earlier, by lifting controls on growth hormones. Such engineered fish put existing stocks at risk, as there is a likelihood that they may be more competitive than native fish. If anglers were so concerned for the welfare of fish, they wouldn’t repeatedly move fish around (livebaits and large specimens), risking the spread of disease.
Nylon line frequently breaks when hooks become snagged on underwater obstructions or bankside vegetation, or is discarded when it gets tangled during casting. It is only very slowly biodegradable (that is, to break down in the environment) and is the cause of death and injury to millions of animals. Waterfowl, such as swans and ducks are especially vulnerable. They pick up hooks, line and weights while feeding and slowly starve to death. Entanglement in line can sever wings and limbs. Pets and livestock are also frequently affected. It is left to animal organisations to pay for the rescue and rehabilitation of the lucky minority of tackle victims that are found.
It needs to be stressed that it is not just the careless few leaving tackle behind who cause this carnage, all anglers will lose tackle, so the only way to stop it is to ban angling.
Every time the subject of tackle victims is raised with anglers, they say 1) that lead shot has been banned, and 2) that anglers did this voluntarily. Here are the facts:
In 1987, the Government introduced legislation, The Control of Pollution (Anglers’ Lead Weights) Regulations 1986 (SI 1992), banning the supply and import of lead weights between 0.06 and 28.35 grams (1 oz). In angling terms this means that lead shot from size 14 to size and lead weights of over 1 ounce can still be used in fishing. Many animals still dye of lead poisoning. This could be due to swans picking up lead weights still in the mud from before the ban; anglers still using illegal weights (anglers have been prosecuted for this in recent years); or poisoning occurring from the sizes that are still legal.
Anglers did not voluntarily cease using lead weights. It was only the years of public outcry leading to the legislation, which finally forced the situation to change. Twelve months before the legislation was passed, the Government’s environmental watch-dog, the Nature Conservancy Council, gave a final warning to anglers that unless they adopted lead substitutes voluntarily, it would have no option but to recommend statutory intervention. Consequently, the National Federation of Anglers, which by now had woken up and realised the tremendous damage being done to the sport’s reputation, made a last ditch attempt to create a favourable impression by banning the use of the problem sizes of lead in its competitions. In the event the battle had already been lost. Anglers clung to their “right” to use lead and received nothing but contempt for insisting that shotgun pellets, boat exhausts and overhead power lines killed far more swans. Now they rely on people’s short memories to pretend that anglers were happy to change to non-toxic weights.
Examples of Tackle Victims
Here are some facts about tackle victims:
To give an idea of the scale of this problem, one rescue group based in Northamptonshire dealt with 288 swans injured by tackle in just the first four months of the 92-93 season, together with ducks, geese, pigeons, herons, coots, moorhens and a great-crested grebe.
In 1993 the Westmoreland Branch of the RSPCA had to rescue ninety-two swans in Cumbria damaged by fishing tackle, 18 of which had to be put to sleep.
In January '94 a collie dog in Felixstowe, swallowed a fish hook, which became wedged in his larynx. A few weeks earlier the owner’s other collie also got a hook caught in her leg. Luckily both dogs recovered, but a number of other dogs have been injured in previous years on Felistowe’s beaches and at least one died.
RSPCA and Environment Agency reports continue to show that angling tackle continues to play a large role in inflicting damage on river birds - see factsheet D for more details.
There are regular reports of fisheries being closed to anglers due to litter left behind, which endangers wildlife and children, while detracting from the beauty of the countryside.
The level of litter left by anglers is difficult to quantify. One study (Forbes, 1986) at a lake in Llandrindod Wells, Wales, found that although the site was used by visitors other than anglers, 64% of the number of litter items (93% of the total surface area of litter) were recorded in those parts of the shoreline (18%) predominantly used by anglers. An island in the lake used exclusively by anglers, was particularly affected by litter. The highest litter densities for the whole site were found around the fishing platforms on the island, but other areas throughout the island were also badly contaminated, with a high proportion of items (48%) being discarded bait containers. (These are readily seen at many fishing areas.)
Reference: Forbes, I.J. 1986. The quantity of lead shot, nylon fishing line and other litter discarded at a coarse fishing lake. Biol. Conserv., 38, 21-34.
9. “Angling keeps young people off the streets and away from violence.”
This argument keeps coming up. At least “hanging around on street corners” does not generally involve inflicting pain on sentient beings! Violence on the streets or violence on the waterways - what’s the difference? There are plenty of other ways to involve youngsters in countryside projects and activities. We learn of many cases each year in which anglers are involved in murder, drug dealing and violence to each other. One man killed his neighbour because his parked car prevented him from going fishing! Neil Acourt, one of the people accused of murdering Stephen Lawrence is an angler.
The same claim is made by many other animal abusers. Certainly anglers tend to be friendly towards (non boat-owning) member of their own species, but this is of little consequence to the fish they catch.
A prevalent belief among anglers is that they have a greater right to the use of the waterways than others. Boat owners and canoeists are treated with contempt and anyone making a noise near an angler or asking them to move their equipment obstruction a towpath, risks incurring a mouthful of abuse, while locals are often inconvenienced by anglers cars and noise, especially where night fishing is allowed.
At some point during our evolution our intelligence developed to the extent whereby we were able to catch fish - probably by the use of a spear and then some form of net. Fishing with rod, line and hook came later.
Fish were hunted as a source of food. Today we know that we do not need to consume fish (or indeed any animal products) in order to survive. All the vitamins, minerals and food groups necessary for good health are available from non-animal sources. There is therefore no need for our species to continue fishing and there is certainly no excuse for inflicting pain upon fish purely for pleasure, as does the coarse angler.
The jobs/economy argument was used by those defending the human slave trade back in the 19th century and is used by other bloodsports enthusiasts today. It is basically true that if angling, or indeed any other form of animal abuse, were banned, people would become unemployed, but society would have to re-organise itself and re-create employment opportunities elsewhere. Also, the money currently spent on angling could be spent elsewhere, and be used to boost other leisure economies that do not depend on cruelty to animals.
What right have anglers to inflict pain and suffering upon sentient beings? Just because angling is legal and widely-practised does not make it morally acceptable. If child battering is considered wrong, then there is no logical reason why the same moral code should not be applied to other living creatures possessing a similar capacity to suffer. Most anglers would intervene if they saw a dog being beaten in the street. Why does their sense of outrage stop at fish?
Many anglers claim that the main reason they go fishing is because in the countryside they are able to escape the stresses of modern living. However, it should be possible to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside without feeling the need to abuse its inhabitants. Anglers are in effect taking out their human-created stress upon an innocent third party. There are many other leisure activities which do not involve animals.
CAA Information Sheet I
Native fish threatened by anglers’ fish imports.
Angling is still one of the UK’s most popular pastimes (though it’s numbers are steadily declining). The majority of these are coarse anglers aiming to catch any freshwater fish species other than salmon and trout. Although some say that they are happy to catch any species or size of fish, most desire to catch huge fish and in particular big carp, with the added incentive of getting his/her photo in an angling magazine or name on the record list. This need to catch huge fish has led to a lucrative trade in imported fish, as our native carp, etc. are small in comparison to overseas species. The situation has escalated since 1993, when EU trade barriers came down and the trickle of imports became a flood.
Anglers often state that they are conservationists. This is clearly contradicted by the majority of the evidence. Anglers are already responsible for causing suffering to fish and to wildlife killed or maimed by lost/discarded fishing tackle. The importation of fish for angling is one of the greatest threats to fish populations and rare species.
The 1975 Freshwater Fisheries Act imposes a 1,000 pound fine for introducing any fish into inland waters without consent from the the National Rivers Authority (NRA - now the Environment Agency (EA) - , while the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act imposes a 2,000 pound fine for introducing new or non-native species. The problem is with enforcing this legislation.
All imported fish destined for release into open waters need consent from the Environment Agency. The main problem with fish imports is that it is all too easy for fish to be put in a lake without EA consent. When the fish subsequently turns up caught by an angler, the owner can conveniently claim no knowledge of illegally stocked fish.
This is exacerbated by lack of enforcement of the rules. For example in 1994, two Chinese blue carp were imported as ornamentals (therefore exempt from consent), but were released into a fishery. When one was later caught by an angler, the NRA did not prosecute, only asked the owners to remove the fish.
“Illegal importation of carp and their subsequent movement is the main hazard on many fisheries. Spring Viraemia and other viral diseases have arrived and they are spreading.”
Dr Bruno Broughton, Angling Times, 7th December, 1994.
“The flood of imported carp is rapidly increasing. Unless we do something there won’t be a single native carp left alive in Britain.”
Harry Haskell, carp tackle dealer, Angler’s Mail 25th March, 1995.
Even when dealers are caught illegally importing fish, fines are insignificant compared to the profits made and do not deter the trade. Fish dealers Tony and Mark Dallas were caught trying to illegally import live fish from France on two occasions in 1994. In October 16,900 tench and 5,700 roach were discovered in tanks in a vehicle at Dover. About half the roach were dead. MAFF gave them the choice of returning the fish to France or destroying them. Mark Dallas opted for the latter. The vehicle was stopped again in December, again full of illegal fish. This time they were returned to France.
Although all imported fish are required by law to undergo health checks and only come from approved areas which have been free from certain diseases for two years, this is not stopping diseased stocks being released into the wild, with disastrous results.
Of greatest concern is Spring Viraemia of Carp (SVC). This highly contagious disease causes loses ranging from 10 to 100 per cent in infected waters and there is no cure. The number of cases in UK waters has soared since EU trade barriers came down in 1993. In 1991 there were only 2 cases, while in 1994 24 fisheries were affected.
Fish can act as carriers for the disease once they have recovered. This is especially important with regard to illegal imports or movement of fish between venues, as fish may look healthy, but then infect a whole population. In May 1995, the NRA called on fisheries not to stock fish into their waters until after the SVC epidemic is over. Unfortunately fishery owners are not complying. Many losses due to disease are believed to be hushed up because they have been caused by illegally stocked fish.
SVC contaminated venues are subject to a three year movement ban, but they are not forced to close to anglers, despite the high risk of transferring disease on infected keepnets, landing nets and even nylon line.
In 1995 Douglas Hogg, the then Agriculture Minister, launched a campaign to warn fishery owners and dealers about importing diseased stock. He admitted “Outbreaks of carp disease during the last two years can be traced at least in part to illegal imports.” Angler’s Mail, 22nd July, 1995. In May 1995, the NRA called on fisheries not to stock fish into their waters until after the SVC epidemic is over. To this day there are still outbreaks of SVC and other diseases that have been traced to the movement of fish.
Rather than concern for the fishes’ welfare or the effects on the aquatic ecology, all most anglers seem concerned about, is whether large imported fish should be allowed to qualify for the record fish lists.
Not only are resident species being imported, exotics such as catfish, sturgeon and blue carp are appearing in fisheries with increasing regularity.
Endangered Fish Species:
Many species have been introduced into UK waters in the last hundred years such as zander, bitterling, rainbow trout, sunfish, black bullhead catfish, European Wels, brook trout. Many introduced species have already caused problems. Zander, for example, is a voracious predator imported from Germany in 1878. In the 1960’s it was released into a Norfolk river. Its growth and spread was very rapid. Anglers moved zander to other waters because they enjoy catching them. In Ireland and the UK, introduced roach have affected rudd populations, especially where rudd had never encountered roach before, being either replaced by them or forming roach/rudd hybrids.
According to Peter Maitland, in a report following a five year study for the Nature Conservancy Council, almost one quarter of native freshwater fish species in Britain (out of 42) are extinct, close to extinction or seriously endangered. The burbot and houting are thought to be extinct, while vendace, powan and allis shad are all on Shedule V of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it an offence to catch or handle them intentionally. Vendace, for example, is only located in a limited number of sites in the Lake District. In Lochmaben vendace have been out competed by introduced bream, perch and pike.
The old NRA Southern Region recommended that prolific breeding predators such as zander, catfish, grass, blue and silver carp be denied introduction consent to their region’s waters, due to the threat they pose to existing fish.
Only a total ban on the import of all exotic fish species can prevent more of the environmental disasters we have seen in the past, when new species have been released into the wild.
Fish themselves suffer “horrendous atrocities” according to fish importer Dave Quelch, (Angling Times, 22nd January, 1993). Many die due to sudden changes in temperature, rough treatment or suffocation. Those that survive are more prone to disease and parasitic infection, due to their stressful experience.
Fish Feel Pain
Angling is a pastime which inflicts pain, stress and fear on sentient creatures. The UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has funded two studies into fish and pain, which have concluded that fish do feel pain. They state in their policy document “…current practices in angling do involve the infliction of pain and suffering on fish.” Leading scientists here and abroad are in total agreement with this statement.
Even when fish are put back alive, as in coarse angling, they will have suffered a debilitating experience and many die after being returned, especially those which have swallowed a hook. (See factsheet A for further details or contact CAA directly.)
It should be remembered that fish are delicate creatures, highly sensitive to changes in oxygen concentration, temperature, light intensity, sudden noise and vibration - some of which are very difficult to avoid during transportation. Fish are often sedated to help them survive the stress of journeys. For example in 1994 six Chinese blue carp were imported for release into Hawkhurst Lake in Kent. After a 17 hour, 4,400 mile journey from China, three were dead on arrival at Heathrow. MAFF has since banned the import of blue carp.
Other Threats to Fish Populations and the Environment
Anglers repeatedly state that they are conservationists, as if this excuses the suffering they cause to fish. However this is far from the truth. While a small minority of anglers do some good putting pressure on polluters or monitoring the waterways, this is far outweighed by the harm done to fish and other wildlife, together with aquatic habitats.
It is illegal to transfer any fish from one water to another without official consent from the Environment Agency. Despite this, anglers are well known for moving fish around, whether it be a big specimen to their favourite water or a new species, such as the predator zander, which is appearing in an increasing number of fisheries. Many fish are also released into new waters due to livebaiting. Livebaiting means impaling live fish on treble hooks as bait to catch predatory fish such as pike and zander. This intensely cruel practise, condemned by many anglers, (although this is rather hypocritical since they catch fish on hooks) and scientists alike also threatens the environment.
Although it is illegal for anglers to transfer fish from one water to another for livebaiting, this is a very common practise. Anglers either catch bait fish at another venue or buy them from a fish dealer. Some of these fish escape the hook, while others are dumped unwanted at the end of a fishing session. Such fish put existing populations at risk from disease. In many waters introduced species are out competing existing fish, for example in the Lake District anglers are dumping illegally smuggled roach livebaits, endangering the rare vendace.
As an alternative to importing fish, research is being done into genetically manipulating fish to get fatter earlier, by lifting controls on growth hormones. Just as with other genetically altered creatures, these fish are an unknown hazard to native stocks. Meanwhile hatcheries are rearing bigger fish on special diets. All to provide bigger specimens for anglers.
Pressure from anglers for all year fishing, has resulted in the scrapping of the three month coarse fishing close season, which has long existed to allow fish to spawn in peace, birds to nest undisturbed and vegetation to regenerate. Further moves are being made to axe the remaining close season on canals. Anglers make much of the fact that there are millions of them. This means millions of feet trampling vegetation and disturbing wildlife during its spring breeding season.
Thousands of birds and other animals are killed and maimed by fishing tackle which is lost and discarded by anglers. Entanglement in line can sever wings and legs, while swallowed hooks lead to an agonising death from starvation. Even the most conscientious angler will lose tackle when it becomes snagged in bankside vegetation and underwater obstructions. The only way to stop this suffering is to stop angling.
Litter is a problem everywhere, but the static nature of angling exacerbates this hazard. Jagged bait cans, plastic bait containers and food wrappers are left in areas where wildlife damage is very likely. Erosion is a common problem, with the banks of many popular angling sites turned into mudslides, while pollution is caused by the huge quantities of ‘groundbait’ catapulted into the water to attract fish to the anglers’ ‘swim’
The problems caused by fish imports can easily be prevented by fishery owners refusing to buy foreign fish and by anglers being satisfied with our native stocks. Unfortunately it is unlikely that the majority of anglers are going to put fish welfare above their own enjoyment, after all around 60% of coarse and game anglers break the law by refusing to buy a rod licence, despite the fact that this levy goes towards fisheries management. The only answer is for the trade to be officially halted.
Although barriers to trade are generally prohibited under EU law, Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome (1957) states that this “…shall not preclude prohibitions or restrictions on imports… on grounds of… the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants;” Imported fish are an accepted threat to the health and life of our native fish. Therefore the trade can and must be stopped.
Write to the Minister of Fisheries (MAFF, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR) urging them to press for an end to the trade in fish imports for release into the wild during a comparaison croisieres.
Send a donation to help our campaign. We rely entirely on the generosity of our supporters.
Send a large SAE for an infomation pack on angling. We also have a schools pack on angling in general available.
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The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the largest British animal welfare organisation states in its policies that it is opposed to angling due to the cruelty involved.
RSPCA Policies on Animal Welfare: (Revised 1997)
6.1 “The RSPCA is opposed to the infliction of pain and suffering on any animal in the name of sport.”
6.12.1 “The RSPCA believes that the current practises in angling involve the infliction of pain and suffering on fish.”
(note: The Medway report has proved to the satisfaction of the RSPCA that fish are capable of experiencing pain and suffering. The RSPCA advocates that those anglers who see fit to pursue their activities adopt a code of practise based on this report.)
6.12.2 “The RSPCA is opposed to the use of lead in angling in view of the suffering and death caused to waterfowl.”
(Lead weights used by anglers resulted in the death of large numbers of mute swans. In 1987 legislation was introduced in teh UK to prohibit the import and sale of most sizes of lead weight.)
RSPCA Policies on Animal Welfare: Bloodsports, 1991.
"2.1 The report of the Panel of Enquiry into Shooting and Angling (the Medway Report) has proved to the satisfaction of the RSPCA that fish are capable of experiencing pain and suffering.
2.2 The RSPCA believes that current practices in angling do involve the infliction of pain and suffering on fish."
A report prepared for the RSPCA by S.C. Kestin of Bristol University and published in April 1994.
In 1980, the RSPCA-sponsored Medway Report was published, which concluded that “all vertebrates (including fish), through the mediation of similar neuropharmacological processes, experience similar sensations to a greater or lesser degree in response to noxious stimuli.” (paragraph 57). This led the RSPCA to adopt a policy stating: “The RSPCA believes that current practices in angling do involve infliction of pain and suffering on fish.” (RSPCA Policies on Animal Welfare: Bloodsports, 1991).
A report was commissioned to evaluate developments since 1980 in scientific knowledge concerning the ability of fish to experience pain and suffering. Section 1 discusses pain; Section 2 covers stress and fear; Section 3 is a review of fish farming practices.
The Report’s Forward states that the evidence given strongly confirms that fish can suffer pain and distress.
The conclusions of Section 1 are given here:
"50. There is little to support the supposition that animals with larger brains experience pain in a more meaningful way than those with smaller brains; simply that they use neural structures similar to our own to interpret it. There is no reason to believe that fish are not achieving the same processing effect in other parts of the Central Nervous System. All the fundamental structures and modulation processes necessary to achieve a perception of pain are present in fish.
51. Recent experimental evidence of a fish’s awareness of events and ability to learn from the predicament of others indicates a level of consciousness not previously ascribed to fish. Experimental evidence of the behaviour of fish, and the priority they give to pain when faced with a choice indicates that pain is an extremely powerful experience to them. As angling and behavioural experiments show, fish rapidly learn to avoid painful experiences, sometimes performing elaborate processes, or depriving themselves of food for extended periods of time to do so. The ability of fish to rapidly learn in response to painful stimulus (usually an electric shock) is widely exploited experimentally to examine fish behaviour, and analgesics have been found to modify the response of fish in a similar manner to man.
The summary of Section 2 states:
“66. The stress response of higher fish and their behaviour and decision making in the presence of stressful stimuli, especially those that lead to anxiety and fear, closely mimic those of higher vertebrates, including man. This, coupled with their ability to perceive pain indicate that they are probably capable of experiencing suffering in a similar way to mammals.”
The 36 page report is available from the Director of Scientific Affairs, RSPCA, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1HG, UK; 01403 264181, priced 5 pounds sterling.
by Prof.dr.F.J. Verheijen & Dr.R.J.A. Buwalda.Published April 1988.
English summary of Dutch Report.
It is common angling practice to return cyprinids and other coarse fish alive to the water after capture. Being captured is presumably an experience that fish find unpleasant, for when such animals are returned to the water they show decreased vulnerability to angling owing to their hook or bait avoidance. Although pain caused by injury is often considered to be the major cause of the unpleasant experience (see Medway, 1980), the brief restriction of freedom and the concomitant fear may also contribute. The experiments described in this report were designed to find responses indicative of pain and fear, to differentiate responses indicative of pain from responses indicative of fear, and to investigate whether fish find pain or fear the more unpleasant experience. Finally we tried to estimate whether or not pain and/or fear make the fish suffer according to recent definitions of suffering (in mammals) where suffering is attributed exclusively to the high(est) levels of “stress”, i.e. distress as defined by Ewbank (1985). Most experiments were carried out with the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), but some involved other cyprinids, viz. the bleak (Alburnus alburnus), the roach (Rutilus rutilus), the rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), and the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella).
The carp were taken by hook and line in aquaria (Laboratory of Comparative Physiology, University of Utrecht) in which they had been living for some time, and also in ponds (Organisation for Improvement of Inland Fisheries OVB). Physically noxious (“pain”) stimuli were administered separately by a) hooking the fish, immediately followed by relaxation of line tension, and, in other experiments, by b) electrical stimulations via an electrode implanted in the roof of the mouth of the free-swimming fish. Fear stimuli were given by c) keeping a hooked fish in action by altering the tension of the line, which is normal practice in angling. In other experiments fear was provoked by d) the introduction of the alarm substance (a pheromone released from damaged skin), and e) confinement to a small jar.
Upon being hooked the fish make some rapid darts (1), and subsequently, while swimming freely on the slackened line, show spit (2) and shake head (3). Some carp resumed feeding only a few minutes later while swimming around on the slackened line. Reactions similar to responses (2) and (3) are also shown by a non-hooked fish when it gets unwanted material in its mouth while ventilating or taking food. The fish in play show behaviour designed as flee (4), spitgas (5), sink (6) and lie (7). Response (5), prolonged spitting of gas from the swimbladder, disturbs the hydrostatic equilibrium (see also Verheijen, 1962), resulting in (6). Response (7) can be maintained for a long period (some hours). Responses 1-7 were also elicited successively by electrical stimulations with stepwise increasing intensity and duration. Responses 1,4,5,6 and 7 were also observed in carp after the alarm substance had been introduced, or after the fish had been confined to a small jar or otherwise restrained.
We assume that the behavioural sequence shown by a hooked carp in play corresponds to the natural alarm reaction in response to, for instance, the alarm substance (see Bolles, 1970). Both behavioural sequences seem to parallel the behaviours that characterize the perceptual-defensive-recuperative model of pain and fear proposed for mammals by Bolles and Fanselow (1980).
We suggest that response 1 (rapid dart), which was shown by the fish in all our experiments, is the Mauthner “fast escape” reflex (see also Verheijen, 1986). The natural alarm reaction to the alarm substance also starts with a Mauthner reflex (Pfeiffer et al., 1986). The Mauthner reflex can be triggered by any sudden strong stimulus; the occurrence of response 1 therefore does not necessarily indicate pain or fear. Reactions 2 (spit) and 3 (shake head) on the other hand were performed only in conditions where possibly noxious, i.e. “painful” stimuli, occurred either in isolation or together with fear-provoking stimuli. We conclude, that spit and shake head do indicate low-level pain unless, of course, these responses are also reflexes.
Reactions 4-7 are shown not only in the various fear-provoking situations indicated above, but also, in a quantitatively and qualitatively virtually similar way, during and after repeated strong electrical shocks. In the latter case these reactions might be either a response to intense pain or, alternatively, a result of fear associated with, for instance, the expected continuation of the strong stimulation. The behaviour of the hooked fish in play could also conceivably be attributed to (a combination of) pain and fear. However, since in the model of Bolles and Fanselow (1980) fear inhibits pain in the defensive phase (i.c. the fish struggling) of the behavioural sequence, we assume that reactions 4-7 of the hooked fish in play are indicative of fear, and not of pain. The perceptual-defensive-recuperative model is not really a suitable model with which to study the rather unnatural situation of strong electrical stimulation, and therefore cannot be used to rule out the possibility that pain is the major determinant of behaviour in the shocked fish. However, even if conceived of as highly effective pure pain stimuli, electrical shocks appear to be no more disturbing than fear stimuli along. Obviously, fear is a most potent motivation.
That the perceptions evoked in fish by local electrical stimulation do parallel to some degree the similarly produced sensations of pain in man is indicated by the results of other experiments. We have found, for instance, that conspicuous transitions in fish behaviour on the one hand, and in sensations of human subjects on the other hand, tend to occur at comparable levels of electrical stimulation in either species. Moreover, both in man and in fish the dynamic range of effective stimuli appears to be particularly small: The difference between a just noticeable stimulus (producing a “tingling sensation” in man, and a temporary slight slowing of heart and ventilation rate, a slight erection of some fins etc. in fish) and a highly effective shock (producing “very strong pain” in man, and wild erratic darting, bumping into the wall, occasionally “freezing”, in fish) is no more than a factor 3, as opposed to a factor million or more for e.g. auditory or visual stimuli.
The similarity between quantitative aspects of electrical stimulus detection in man and fish is significant, Even more interesting is our finding that the perception of, and reactions to, electrical stimuli by fish (the heart rhythm being used as an indicator) can be manipulated in accordance with the Signal Detection Theory (SDT). SDT, originating from experimental psychology, explains human perceptual performance in terms of decision processes localized in higher is not conscious levels of the brain. That the fish’s performance is discriminating between electrical stimuli fits SDT is strong evidence for the non-reflex character of “pain perception” in fish.
However real the sensation of pain may be for fish, we conclude that the pain (if any) produced by impalement by the hook contributes less to the unpleasantness of the catching procedure than fear. On the basis of the scoring system proposed by Morton and Griffiths (1985) for assessing levels 0-1-2-3 of pain and distress in mammals (see, however, Sanford et al., 1986) we conclude that the pain involved corresponds to the (Lowest) level 0; this is the level which, according to Morton and Griffiths, characterizes the effects (in mammals) of many veterinary manipulations or minor surgical procedures such as injections. The combined effects of pain and fear together bring the level to 1-2. This means that, in stress terminology, the hooked carp in play is subjected to overstress (Ewbank, 1985). On the basis of the relation between stress condition and suffering suggested by Ewbank (1985), Sanford et al. (1986) and others for certain species of mammals, the carp cannot be considered to be suffering, in the sense of being in distress (Ewbank, 1985). The experiments with the other species of cyprinids mentioned above lead us to a similar conclusion. This should, of course not be taken to indicate that the combination of pain and fear involved is insignificant. After all, level 1-2 in the classification of Morton and Griffiths does stand for mild to moderate discomfort.
Moreover, we emphasize that the above conclusions are valid only for fish of the cyprinid family that are caught by skilled anglers avoiding unduly prolonged playing. The practice of hooking, playing and immediately returning the fish alive to the water seems to parallel the natural sequence of alarm responses so that the animal is able to terminate the behavioural sequence with the consummatory response lie, and calm down “on schedule”. However, less skilful handling or ignorance may result in distress, and consequently in suffering. For instance, in the case of a live fish used as bait the response flee is artificially prolonged. The bait fish may eventually succumb to stress or injury, if it is not taken alive by a predatory fish. This (ill-)treatment of the fish shows some of the characteristics of biomedical experiments in Category E (for instance “inescapably severe stress or terminal stress”) which “are considered to be highly questionable or unacceptable irrespective of the significance of anticipated results” (Orlans, 1986). The practice of holding fish captive in keepnets for several hours and not releasing them until fishing has ended is open to criticism for similar reasons. Again, the behavioural response flee is prolonged, and if performed as bunt-out (Pitcher, 1979), it may result in injury and the release of the alarm substance, particularly under crowding conditions. Respiratory problems occur fairly frequently. Obviously the custom of holding fish in keepnets has some of the characteristics of Category D biomedical experiments (for instance "induction of an anatomical or physiological deficit that will result in pain or distress; prolonged periods, up to several hours or more, of physical restraint) which places “an explicit responsibility on the investigator to explore alternative designs to ensure that animal distress is minimized or eliminated” (Orlans, 1986). If the fish succumbs, the treatment should be rated equivalent to biomedical experiments in Category E: highly questionable or unacceptable.
This project was supported by the Animal Protection Foundation “Stichting Bouwstenen”, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, The Dutch Angling Societies NVVS and CNHV, and the Organisation for the Improvement of Inland Fisheries OVB.
BOLLES,R.C.(1970) Psychol. Rev. 77(1):32-48. Species-specific defense reactions and avoidance learning.
BOLLES,R.C. & FANSELOW,M.S. (1980) Behav. Brain Sci. 1980(3):291-323. A percetual-defensive-recuperatuive model of fear and pain. EWBANK,R. (1985) Behavioural responses to stress in farm animals. In: Animal stress (G.P. Moberg, red.),Waverly Press, Baltimore,71-95.
MEDWAY,LORD (1980) Report of the panel of enquiry into shooting and angling (1976-1979). Panel of enquiry into shooting and angling, Horsham, Sussex, UK.
MORTON,D.M & GRIFFITHS,P.H.M. (1985) Vet. Rec. 116:431-436. Guidelines on the recognition of pain, distress and discomfort in experimental animals and an hypothesis for assessment.
ORLANS,F.B. (1986) Scand. J. Lab. Anim. Sci. 13(3):93-97. Classification system for degree of animal harm.
PFEIFFER,W. et al., (1986) Zool. Jb. Physiol. 90:115-165. Slowmotion analysis of the fright reaction of ostariophysean fish and the significance of the “Mauthner reflex”.
PITCHER,T.J. (1979) Anim. Behav. 27:126-149. Sensory information and the organisation of behaviour in a shoaling cyprinid.
SANFORD,J. et al., (1986) Vet. Rec. 118(12):334-338. Guidelines for the recognition and assessment of pain in animals.
VERHEIJEN,F.J. (1962) Science 14:864-865. Gas spitting by alarmed fish disturbs their hydrostatic equilibrium.
VERHEIJEN,F.J. (1986) Het Visblad 12(8):11-13. Voelen ongewervelde dieren pijn?
N.B. The CAA is totally against experimentation on animals such as was undertaken in the above study. As the research has already been carried out, we are publicising the results for those people who require scientific proof that fish can feel pain.
Submission of the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies
Excerpts of Report
Misconceptions about fish
‘Humans have brain receptors for benzodiazepines, which reduce anxiety. Similar receptors have been found in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. From this evidence, Dr Andrew Rowan, dean of the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine in Bostin (U.S.A.) concludes:
“This suggests that most vertebrates are capable of experiencing a form of anxiety which is physiologically similar to that seen in humans - at least it appears to be mediated via similar receptors in the brain.”’
(Ref: A. Rowan, Of Mice, Models, and Men, State University of New York Press, Albany 1984).
The capacity of fish to suffer
5.1 Hooking and killing
This section describes the problems involved with tagging of fish: “For a fish, being tagged is an extremely traumatic experience and it follows naturally that the less physical and mental stress the fish is subjected to, the better its chances of survival and in turn the better its chances of recapture.” (Ref: Page 6, Modern Fishing, October 1984).
“…tagging kills fish! It depends on a number of factors - the type of fish, the experience of the tagger, that time out of water, the type of tag, the damage from capture, and so on. But, some tagging mortalities always occur, and it can be severe.” (Ref: Page 8, Modern Fishing, Oct. '84)
5.3 Live baiting
The methods used in live baiting in Australia are described: “The needle is passed through the front of the eye socket of both eyes. The material is then pulled through so that the hook sits on the head of the baitfish.” (Ref: Page 102, ‘Live baiting rigs and tackles’, Fishing World, December 1988).
“Kept alive by having salt water pumped through their gills, they have hooks stitched to the top of their heads by means of a sack needle passed through the eye socket. Then, with mouths sewn shut, they are towed behind the boats at a steady five knots. Sometimes they stay alive all day. If they begin to skitter in panic across the surface, observers know something big is closing in.” (Ref: Description of a journalist observing game fishing; Page 34, Australian Magazine, February 16 1991).
5.4 Game fishing/playing fish
5.5 Commercial fishing
5.6 Fish farming
6.Invertebrate aquatic animals
7.Fish and the law in Australia
A copy of this 12 page report is available from the CAA priced 65p plus 20p postage and packing (or a suitable amount for overseas orders).
cormorant with open wings The `Black Plague’ is a Myth
What you can do to help prevent a cull
Over the last few years drastic over-fishing by commercial boats have forced large numbers of cormorants and other fish eating birds inland to find food. Naturally, they have gathered at the over stocked commercial angling waters and some rivers and have started to consume the local fish. This has dismayed anglers who want to torment the fish themselves and are calling for the right to cull these birds.
What is standing in their way is that the cormorant is a protected species and thus anyone wanting to kill them requires a government license in order to do so. Anglers are campaigning for the protected species status of the cormorant to be lifted so they can go on a mass killing spree. Some of them have already taken the law into their own hands.
It is not impossible to get a license, just hard. Anyone wanting one has to show that all other methods of scaring the birds away have been tried and failed; and also that there is a problem in the first place. Anglers do not seem to be bother with the first - odd since they claim to benefit the environment and it inhabitants - while hearsay seem to be their basis for the second.
On 30th September, 1999, the results of a four year long government commissioned study into the effects of cormorant predation were released. The conclusions are that although some fisheries have been significantly hit by cormorants, the effect is a local one and does not warrant any change in government policy on the protected status of these birds. They also showed that shooting is relatively ineffective as a tactic and at best only short term. This is echoed in the evidence given by the RSPB to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review Group. Some fisheries have actually thrived while suppuration a large cormorant population.
For the moment the government is saying that they will follow the conclusions of the reports. The RSPB are also backing the reports, even going as far as to say that they would like to see the government being even more cautious in the issuing of licenses (this despite reports in the angling media to the contrary).
Anglers say: “Cormorants are stealing ‘our’ fish.”
All the cormorant is doing is feeding herself and her family while anglers catch fish for the sheer pleasure of it. Surely the cormorants’ survival should be put above the pleasure of anglers?
Anglers say: “Cormorants are ravishing fish stocks.”
Yet the government currently issue licenses to kill fish eating birds when there is evidence of ‘serious damage to fish stocks’. This is not enough for blood-thirsty anglers who are obviously having trouble proving such cormorant damage.
Anglers say: “Cormorants are not native to inland waters where they are doing the damage.”
Cormorants have utilised inland waters in the UK for many years. The numbers inland has increased as the terrible carnage of our seas by fishing people has driven cormorants further inland in search of food. It is time that fishers took responsibility for the fact that they have decimated fish numbers to the extent where they may never recover.
However, before a final decision is made, the government has said that they will consulting with angling and conservation groups.
Although it seems that the cormorants have won for the moment, the threat is not over until this final decision is made. The anglers still represent a powerful lobby group and threatening not to let this issue go. There is also still much illegal killing going on.
What you can do to help prevent a cull
We have a petition on this issue for people to sign. Email or write to us at the address below to obtain a copy. We are not currently producing leaflets for this campaign though we will provide a version of this page as a free fact sheet.
To prevent the anglers instigating a slaughter of this protected bird, we are requesting people to write to the following government ministers. Ask them to respect the findings of the scientific reports, to maintain the integrity of the protected status of the cormorant and not to weaken the regulations currently surrounding the application for a license to shoot them. See below for other points to remark upon.
Elliot Morley, Minister for Fisheries, Whitehall Place West, London, SW1A 2HH.
Chris Mullin, Minister for the Environment, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU.
Christine Gwyther, Agriculture Secretary for Wales, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA.
The Commissioner for the Environment, Member of Cabinet, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.
Also write to your MP, asking them to raise the issue with the relevant ministers, at
House of Commons, London, SW1A 1AA
Points to remark on:
The reports show that there is no need for any reduction in the protected status of the cormorant, so calls by anglers for a cull have no scientific basis and thus should be ignored. Their claim that a cull is needed is founded on misleading heresy and anecdote.
The cormorant is trying to survive and has been forced inland by the destruction of fish stocks in the seas. Any cull will simply put the future of this species under further threat and this should outweigh any demands from anglers who are only concerned about their own pleasure.
The waters which suffer most from cormorant predation are overstocked fisheries where the fish would only have been caught by anglers instead. The reports also notes that there is no direct link between the size of the cormorant population and the fish stock loss as the situation is far too complicated for such simple generalizations.
Where culls have already taken place, the cormorants have returned within two to six weeks, making the cull ineffective.
More emphasis needs to be placed on finding an alternative, sustainable solution. As opposed to giving into the short term demands of fishermen seeking scapegoats.
That the real problem lies in the destructive over-fishing of the sea by commercial boats, and that action needs to be taken to rectify the ecological disaster being faced by the worlds oceans.
Useful links on this issue are
1/ http://www.maff.gov.uk/inf/newsrel/1999/990930b.htm is the original press release from 30th Sept., 1999 on the release of the government reports on the issue.
2/ The following two links are to the executive summaries of two of the government reports on cormorants:
http://www.wildlife-countryside.detr.gov.uk/fishbird/02/index.htm Population, Distribution, Movements and Survival of Fish-Eating Birds in Great Britain.
http://www.wildlife-countryside.detr.gov.uk/fishbird/01/index.htm Feeding Behaviour of Fish-Eating Birds in Great Britain.
3/ http://www.maff.gov.uk/fish/salmon/evidence/rspb.htm contains the response of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review Group (a UK government enquiry body) on the issue of cormorants.
The Report of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review Group has been released. This report will form the basis of future UK government policy and any recommendations for legislative change for angling in this country. However, it was put together by a panel dominated by anglers and the welfare of the fish is not well represented in it. The Government has given until the 31st of July to comment on it.
One positive effect of it is that the Minister for Fisheries, Elliot Morley, has indicated that livebaiting may yet have to be effectively banned if some of the reports recommendations are implemented.
We are asking people to write to Elliot Morley about the report and promote the needs of fish to him. To add your comment to the consultation write to
Will Hellon or Carol Billson at
MAFF Fisheries Division ,
Rm 308, Nobel House,
17 Smith Square,
London, SW1P 3JR,
Or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Important points to comment on are:
a) That the needs of biodiversity and ecology, including that of fish welfare, should given priority at all times. (Rec. 132 to 136)
b) Livebaiting should be banned on the grounds that it is exceptionally cruel to fish (Rec. 56 & 57) and would come into conflict with any regulations tightening the movement of fish (Rec. 124 & 125)
c) That the closed season on rivers should be kept to protect the spawning fish. Any change in the current situation would only benefit anglers and not the fish at the most important time in their life-cycle. (Rec. 99)
d) That the Environment Agency should not be encouraging or promoting angling in any form as it’s purpose is to protect the environment as opposed to facilitating an activity linked to widespread harm to habitat and wildlife. (Rec. 1, 9, 10, 11, 23)
e) The granting of any new licenses to fish farms to be suspended immediately on the grounds that they are environmentally destructive to the environment and put wild stocks at risk. (Rec. 49, 50, 52, 117 to 120)
f) That there is no relaxation of the rules governing the culling of cormorants (Rec. 179-181) on the grounds that Government research has shown that the claims of cormorant destruction are localised and that shooting is itself ineffective.
A copy of the report can be found in PDF format at http://www.maff.gov.uk/fish/salmon/backgrnd.htm The CAA’s own comments can be found at http://www.anti-angling.com/sffrg1a.html - these go into further detail on the issues and make other points not covered here.
Thank you for taking the time to write.
For the fish
By definition a fish is a cold-blooded, water-dwelling animal with a backbone and a skeleton. It breathes oxygen from the water through its gills and moves by swimming. Fish are called cold-blooded because, unlike mammals, their blood temperature fluctuates with the temperature of the surrounding water. This allows them to adapt to seasonal variations. Fish breathe by taking in water through their mouths and passing it out through the gills. The oxygen from the water is retained and passes into the fish’s bloodstream.
There are of course a huge number and variety of fish species in fresh and saltwater habitats across the world but they have, with certain exceptions, the above characteristics in common. The most important point to remember is that they all have the capacity to suffer pain and stress.
Angling is the catching of fish by the lips with rod, line and hook and can also be called fishing. It is undertaken primarily for the enjoyment of the angler, who gets pleasure from outwitting a fish into being caught. There are three kinds of angling which are undertaken for pleasure:
SOME COARSE FISH
SOME SEA FISH
a) COARSE ANGLING. All types of freshwater fish (i.e. from rivers, streams and lakes) are hunted by coarse anglers, with the exception of salmon, trout and grayling. Most are considered inedible so are usually thrown back. All coarse anglers have to buy a rod licence and they can then fish wherever it is permitted. All coarse fishing used to have a close season when there was no fishing allowed while the fish spawned (produce their eggs). However since 1995 this has been scrapped on still waters (lakes, ponds and reservoirs). There is still a close season on rivers and most canals from 15th March to 15th June.
b) SEA ANGLING. This is practised from beaches, rocks, piers and boats. All types of fish are caught, from flatfish to huge sharks. Sea fish are seldom returned alive to the water as most are considered edible. No rod licence is required and there is no close season for sea angling.
c) GAME ANGLING. This is considered by many to be a specialised branch of angling in which trout, salmon and to a lesser extent, grayling are hunted. These species are considered edible, so are usually killed when caught. Game angling is thought to require more skill than other types of angling and rod licences are more expensive than for coarse fishing. Even so, trout fishing is becoming increasingly popular. Game fisheries are restocked with hatchery reared fish. To keep the game fish ‘safe’ for the anglers fish eating birds and mammals, together with other predatory fish, are ruthlessly killed. The close season for game angling varies according to the fish being hunted but tends to be during the winter months between September and March.
As mentioned above, angling involves the use of a rod, line and hook with usually a reel holding the coiled line.
These can be barbed or barbless, with the former causing more damage to fish and being banned at an increasing number of fisheries. Anglers keep forceps and disgorgers to remove hooks from fish, as this often can not be done by hand. Hooks are regularly swallowed by fish and their removal can damage internal organs and lead to fish deaths. The huge hooks used in shark fishing often cause the animal to vomit up its entire stomach in a desperate attempt to get rid of the painful hook.
“I livebait and I bet you do too. It’s barbaric and we shouldn’t but we are there to catch pike.”
John Bailey, Coarse Fisherman, May '91.
A variety of baits are used to disguise the hooks and lure the fish to the line. Baits include maggots, worms and artificial lures made to look like fish. Even small live fish are impaled on treble hooks to catch predatory fish, such as pike. Here, the ‘livebait’ fish swims around until it is eaten by a predator or it dies of its injuries. In game fishing, artificial ‘flies’ are created from materials such as fur, feathers, silk, wool and tinsel.
A landing net is used to help bring fish onto the shore or bank and is a bag-like net attached to a handle. Salmon, sharks and other large sea fish are usually landed using a gaff, a huge sharp hook on the end of a pole, which impales the flesh.
“…some treat their captives abominably. The fish are held for far too long in keep-nets. Then there is the ‘weigh-in’. Photographs follow. And finally the fish are thrown back. Not surprisingly fatalities are common…Competitive angling does treat fish like animate golf balls.”
Malcolm Greenhalgh, Salmon, Trout & Sea Trout, July '93.
A keepnet is a long mesh net used by match anglers (who compete to catch the largest weight of fish in a certain time) and pleasure anglers, to keep the fish imprisoned in the water until the end of the session. The purpose of keeping the fish during a match is to weigh all fish caught to establish at the end who has netted the heaviest catch. Other anglers just like to keep their catch by them until they pack up and go home.
The Campaign for the Abolition of Angling [CAA] was started in 1981, the year after the R.S.P.C.A. sponsored Medway Report was published, which stated that fish can feel pain and stress.
Throughout this time, the aims of the CAA remain the same: to educate people about the suffering inflicted on fish and other wildlife by anglers. The CAA also helps people who are campaigning in their areas to achieve angling bans on their local waters and keep them up to date with what’s happening in the anti-angling movement.
For a while the CAA was known as Pisces, though it reverted to its old name in 1998. In March 2000, it was decided that Pisces would become the youth and educational branch of the CAA. This was so it could focus on the youth and educational side of things. It will also aim to promote greater awareness of fish welfare such as through campaigning against fish in entertainment and as being used as prizes in schools and fairs. In time, we hope its website at http://www.pisces.demon.co.uk/ will reflect this. Much of the material on this website can already be found there.
Here are three tactics used to sabotage angling:
Saboteurs will wear waterproof gear and swim, wade or splash their feet in the water to stop anglers casting and scare away the fish.
Saboteurs will make noises in and above the water.
Saboteurs will talk to anglers to disturb their concentration.
Whilst most of our supporters work to try and stop people fishing by showing them it is wrong, others go out and use non-violent methods to frighten fish away from anglers and stop them going through the suffering of being caught. Fish are suffering now, angling saboteurs save fishes’ lives now, for the short term, while the educational campaigning works to stop all angling in the long term.
Here are a selection of CAA’s successes:
Many local authorities have banned angling on their land or imposed restrictions on keepnets, livebaiting etc.
Our representatives are continually taking the anti-angling message to the public via television, radio and newspapers.
Companies are dropping sponsorship of angling competitions.
We rely on our supporters to make the CAA a strong campaigning group. Members receive four free issues of our magazine per year which will keep you updated with what’s happening, while helping the only group world-wide solely campaigning against angling. Besides focusing on the UK angling community, we actively help groups in other countries set up their anti-angling activities.
Campaign for the Abolition of Angling membership is
£6 Pounds (UK sterling) per annum, (adult).
£4 Pounds (UK sterling) per annum, (youth/unwaged).
£50 Pounds (UK sterling) life membership.
CAA also welcomes donations and membership applications from outside of the UK with an appropriate amount added to cover postage costs.
Note: All cheques/money orders need to be in pounds sterling.
Sorry but we are unable to accept credit cards at present
The Campaign for the Abolition of Angling
BM FISH, LONDON, WC1N 3XX
Tel: 0870 458 41 76