You Don’t Need Lungs to Suffer: Fish Suffering in the Age of Climate Change with a Call for Regulatory Reform
Fish are sentient — they feel pain and suffer. Yet, while we see increasing interest in protecting birds and mammals in industries such as farming and research (albeit few laws), no such attention has been paid to the suffering of fish in the fishing industry. Consideration of fish welfare including reducing needless suffering should be a component of fisheries management. This article focuses on fisheries management practices, the effects of anthropogenic climate change on fisheries management practices, and the moral implications of fish sentience on the development and amendment of global fishing practices. Part I examines domestic and international fisheries, including slaughter practices for wild-caught and farmed fish. Part II discusses the impact of climate change on global fisheries management. Part III outlines recent scientific discoveries that reveal that fish have sentient capabilities. Part IV analyzes psychological and economic roadblocks to acknowledging fish harm. Part V discusses strategies to incorporate concerns over fish harm into current practices. Part VI discusses the United States’ Public Trust Doctrine, arguing that: (1) it exists at both the state and federal levels; and (2) it requires stricter fisheries management practices that impose humane requirements on commercial fisheries. Part VII concludes that (1) anthropogenic climate change is inflicting an enormous amount of suffering on fish populations, and (2) fisheries management practices must mitigate these harms by incorporating moral considerations.