At our last Cube of Truth for Anonymous for the Voiceless in Nuremberg, I met an old man from Bulgaria. At first glance he looked very tough, a big guy with huge, rough hands. But when I approached him I saw tears in his eyes while he was watching fishing footage. So I asked him straight away: “Why are you so touched? What do you feel when watching this?” He replied: “You know, I have very severe asthma and I almost suffocated to death three times in my life – I know exactly how they feel.” At that moment we both started crying and for me that was one of the most powerful moments doing outreach ever.
Like other animals, fish feel pain and experience fear. The nerve system in a fish is almost the same as in birds and mammals. Fish have fully developed brains and nervous systems and very sensitive mouths. Fish use their tongues and mouths like humans use their hands – to catch or gather food, build nests, and hide their offspring from danger. Fish also experience fear. An Australian study found that when fish are chased, confined, or otherwise threatened, they react with increased heart and breathing rates and a burst of adrenaline, just as humans do.
When fish are dragged from the depths of the ocean, the fish undergo a terrible decompression – the fast pressure change ruptures their swim bladders, pops out their eyes, and pushes their stomachs through their mouths. Then they are thrown onto the ship, where they slowly suffocate, are crushed to death or are still alive when their throats and bellies are cut open.