Fish factfile

Animal Aid Factfile
Focus on Fish
the process and also to adopt a truly consistentstance by ending fish sales as well. In June 2003, In the mid 1990’s, DIY giant Focus Do it All begun the firm’s commercial director wrote to Animal selling a range of ‘pet’ animals in its stores, Aid confirming that Focus were now committed including small mammals, reptiles, fish and to end all animal sales - fish included - and that ‘exotic’ birds. In February 2000, Animal Aid their ‘exit’ strategy would take two years. The launched a campaign against these sales, company did not specify when the two year pointing out that shoppers intending to purchase period actually began. Animal Aid intends to DIY goods could easily be tempted into an monitor closely the phase-out of animal sales.
impulse purchase of an animal without thinkingthrough that animal's long term care needs. The The case against
campaign – which included hundreds of demonstrations at the company’s stores around ‘ornamental’ fish sales
the country, plus undercover filming and the Meanwhile, Focus continue to sell 'ornamental’ publication of factual reports - proved highly fish i.e. species purchased for 'decoration' rather successful. In October 2000, Focus agreed to end than to eat. The main coldwater ornamental fish all reptile sales, and – in February 2002 - are goldfish (Carassius auratus) and koi carp announced that it would phase-out the selling of (Cyprinus carpio). Focus fish are freshwater, all birds and mammals. However, more than a year after having made this promise, while many stores have shut down their pet departments,numerous Focus outlets that were previously Look around and you'll see 'ornamental fish' trading in animals were continuing to do so.
everywhere - not just in tanks in homes, offices Animal Aid is concerned that if the phase-out and bars but also in picture frames and tubes.
programme continues at the current rate, it will Animal Aid has recently completed a successful take years for Focus to fulfill its promise and end animal sales. We asked the company to speed up 'Aquababies' - live fish sold in small cubes.
A closer examination of the ornamental fish Outside the water, however, fish can hear no profit-motivated animal exploitation. The fish aremass-produced, leading to associated Fish are short sighted. They see in colour and welfare problems and disease risks. Fish are their eyes can look in separate directions at the expected to conform to a stipulated sex, colour same time. They use their tongues and lips to and quality and those who don't 'make the build nests, gather food and hide their young from danger. Some fish have taste buds on theirbody that detect the taste of food at a distance.
Starved, mutitated and
The sensitivity of detection increases as the fishgets closer to the food source, which allows them to find food even when they cannot see it. Theyalso have sensory organs called nares, which Those ‘specimens’ whose quality is deemed high receive smell through the water rather than enough for export will be starved for days before through the air. Additional sensory capabilities in being transported in order to 'purge' them of the some species can recognise and react to very low faeces that could dirty their water and cause levels of electricity. The electrical impulses help ammonia pollution. Their fins may be hacked off them to find their prey and avoid predators.
to ensure that the transportation bags don't get Stray electrical currents in fish culture units can punctured. They are packed densely into plastic bags and transported for thousands of milesbefore reaching the store shelf - creating ideal Fish feel pain
conditions for disease to spread. The fishes' delicate outer surface is damaged each time they Increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, are netted or handled and their resistance to adrenaline rush, writhing, gasping - fish display stress and disease is lowered. Drugs are routinely similar signs to humans when under stress and added to their water in an attempt to solve the faced with dangerous situations. Fish feel pain problem. Already, certain types of bacteria are out of biological necessity, just as all mammals do. They possess a brain, central nervous systemand pain receptors all over their bodies.
It is this type of treatment of animals that has Without the ability to feel pain they would resulted in one disease outbreak after another not survive. They also produce enkephalins and sweeping through the intensive animal farming endorphins, chemicals known to counter pain in humans. Scientific reports from around the antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs'. Surely the human world substantiate these basic realities.
race is innovative enough to create pictures anddecorations that do not make use of live The evidence of pain
In a key 1996 report examining the welfare of About fish
farmed fish, the Ministry of Agriculture's officialadvisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Fish are cold-blooded, which means that their temperature fluctuates in relation to the surrounding water. They are finely attuned to 'Almost all fish live the whole of their lives in their environment by the senses of taste, touch, water and show a maximal emergency response sight, smell, hearing and other faculties unique to fish.1 They breathe through their gills - taking in short period. This response includes changes in water through their mouths, retaining the heart rate, increased production of adrenaline, oxygen and passing it into their bloodstream.
noradrenaline and cortisol and vigorous muscle Most fish have a row of tiny pores on their side contractions…' These changes 'often indicate called the lateral line. These act as a hearing aid fear in the fish…All of the scientific evidence by sensing low frequency pressure waves and concerning such effects makes it clear that the making them very sensitive to vibrations and term stress is certainly relevant to fish and that reflections. They provide important information the means by which stress effects are mediated about food or predators from some distance.
are very similar to those in mammals. Evidence bee venom or acetic acid injected into their lips that the term pain is applicable to fish comes with animals that had received harmless saline. from anatomical, physiological and behaviouralstudies whose results are very similar to those of The fish subjected to the hurtful chemicals studies on birds and mammals. The fact that fish showed clear signs of physiological stress. They are cold blooded does not prevent them from took 90 minutes longer to resume feeding and having a pain system and, indeed, such a system their rate of gill breathing was characteristic of a is valuable in preserving life and maximising the fish swimming at top speed. They also rocked biological fitness of individuals. The receptor cells, from side to side in a manner that the researchers neuronal pathways and specialised transmitter substances in the pain system are very similar in sometimes seen in zoo animals. The fish treated with acid also rubbed their lips on the sides andbottom of the tank.
'Fish react to stress and other environmentalchallenges in much the same way as traditional Lifespan
The lifespan of a fish is much longer than The Medway Report, an enquiry sponsored by people tend to think. For example, goldfish can the RSPCA into angling and shooting (1979), Rearing and
'[The] evidence suggests that all vertebrates(including fish). experience similar sensations to transportation
a greater or lesser degree in response to noxious The majority of coldwater ornamental fish sold in the UK are imported. An estimated 35 million fish The report stated that there is no reason to are imported through Heathrow airport every year. The main exporter is Singapore.9 These fish are typically farmed intensively in the source country, then caught and transported vast Even a study funded by the British Field Sports distances before arriving on the store shelf. The Society and the National Federation of Anglers found that capture of fish by anglers causes acute problems and causes much suffering. Stressed, exhausted fish are more susceptible to disease.
The industry's response has been to begin Dr Donald Broom, Professor of Animal Welfare at research into the development of vaccines that 'The scientific literature is quite clear.
veterinary supply side of the industry.
Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, thepain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and animal welfare terms, you have Ornamental fish fall into two broad categories: to put fishing in the same category as hunting.' 6 1. Live-bearers - these include the guppies and The most recent evidence comes from research mollies sold by Focus, as well as platies and conducted at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh.7 Researchers took measurements from individualneurons in anaesthetised rainbow trout while 2. Egg-layers - including the gouramis and they poked the fish's heads and applied acid and Live-bearers are grown almost exclusively in Analysis satisfied the team that fish have the outdoor pools. Stocking rates for the breeding ‘neural hardware’ to transmit pain messages. To ponds can vary from 50 to 1000 fish. They are determine whether this meant that they were usually caught with baited traps, which are capable of actually registering pain, they decided placed along the edges of the pond early in the to look for behavioural responses that resemble morning. They are then sorted - some being sold, those exhibited by a human in pain. The team some put in another pond, others returned compared the behaviour of fish who had either to the same pond, and some killed because they infection and essential salts leach out into the aquarium water. Salt loss can lead to heart failure and muscle spasms.16 Mucus damage also Commercial production techniques for egg- layers results in decreased lubrication, meaning that fish are ‘guarded closely by the producers’.11 Most are need more energy to swim - often at times when bred in hatcheries and reared in tanks or ponds. their energy reserves are already being used up because of stress. Stress also causes chemical fish are valued for their appearance, it is no surprise that those who fail the quality test are effectiveness as a barrier against invading unceremoniously disposed of. Most 'live-bearers' organisms. Handling can damage fish scales and are hybrids or colour variations, and University of skin - another physical barrier to protect the fish Florida researchers state that, ‘many are from injury. Breaks in the skin or removed scales discarded because their colouration, finnage or quality do not conform to the desired type’.
Buyers usually demand an equal ration of male The stress of transportation
and netting -
a heavy toll of
damage and
All fish experience physical damage during tured from stock tube plastic and heat-sealed at netting and transportation. This can result in one end so there is only a single seam. These are symptoms such as split fins, cloudy eyes and called 'pillow bags' because there is no flat increased susceptibility to disease and infections.
surface. Boxes are not big - an 'Asia Double Box' Fish crowded together in a trap or net can rapidly measures 60 x 42 x 30 cm and an 'Alternate Asia Because fish scales are not watertight, fish have a During the journey, fish will become stressed layer of protective mucus that keeps out infection because of noise, vibration, confinement, and helps prevent the loss of electrolytes (salts) crowding and unnatural water and temperature from the gills and skin.14 Mucus also forms a conditions - factors that can lead to disease and chemical barrier because it contains enzymes death later on.20 Oxygen levels fall in the plastic (lysozymes) and antibodies (immunoglobulins) bags and levels of ammonia and carbon dioxide Each time fish are netted, the mucus is damaged. Fish become more susceptible to immune system and impair the fishes' ability to ammonia building up from fish faeces, the fish release antibodies against an invading organism, are frequently starved before being packed up.
thus undermining their defence against disease.
The industry recommends that feeding should be Excessively hot temperatures are also damaging.25 withheld for a minimum of two days and up tofive days, depending on species. One team of researchers states that, ‘the absence of faeces in are kept in a small space, nitrogenous wastes and the tank will indicate that fish have had an ammonia build up. Producers supposedly use adequate purge time prior to sorting, counting recirculating, biologically filtered water in an attempt to combat the problem.26 Even so, oneexpert has stated that, ‘[h]igh levels of drugged: In an attempt to keep fish alive ammonia are commonly associated with disease in these wholly unnatural conditions, sedatives, outbreaks when fish are crowded in vats or water quality stabilizers and antibiotics may be added to the water. The wide use of the antibiotic tetracycline in fish shipped out from Asia is leading to bacteria becoming immune to a small area, they can become deprived of sufficient oxygen. This is dangerous for the fish as‘[l]ow oxygen is a frequent cause of fish mortality in ponds, especially in the summer’.28 (OFI) (a worldwide organisation that representsall areas of the “ornamental aquatic industry” Small ttanks: If fish are kept in tanks too small for including wholesalers, importers, exporters, breeders etc) state that ‘compliance with IATA affected and they can develop deformities.29 (International Air Transport Association) Live Silver sharks (sold by Focus) can grow to 14" and Animal Regulations with regard to packing and in the wild, they are fast swimming shoal fish.
handling procedures results in the vast majority Imagine their frustration when confined in a of ornamental aquatic livestock enjoying global tank! It's not just the limited space that stresses trouble-free transportation’. However, they fish - the noise from pumping and filtering continue, ‘[o]n occasions (but on an infrequent equipment also has a significant impact. Other basis), consignments may become stranded in factors causing stress to the fish include social transit at airports, owing to missed flight mixing, water quality and lack of environmental connections, arrival outside veterinary inspection centre opening hours, essential documentation Watchdog investigation
going astray, or several other factors. At suchtimes, the welfare of the livestock could be Pets at Home, a rival pet shop chain to Focus, was placed at risk, particularly if delays prove the subject of a recent investigation by the BBC1 excessive.’ The OFI lists companies around the television programme, Watchdog.31 Two Pets at world which can 'rescue' stranded consignments.23 Home customers, who bought fish, found thatstaff were not on hand to provide advice. The fish died quickly, despite them having treated the their llengthy jjourneys? One Hawaiian research water for disease. Watchdog visited Pets at Home team states: ‘Fish that are densely packed in bags branches with an ornamental fish expert, Peter that have taken longer than expected to arrive Bradley, and found dead and diseased fish in may be suffering from exposure to accumulations eight out of nine stores. In three branches, they of ammonia, thermal shock, or other problems’. 24 found that fish had been left in the tank for so But their ordeal is by no means over.
long they had started to decay and were being Problems of confinement
eaten by others. In one store, they discoveredfour dead goldfish in one tank.
Temperature cchanges: Fish are highly sensitive totemperature and sudden changes affect their After purchases, the documentary team found that fish were spun round in their bags by staff - completely halt the activity of 'killer cells' in the something which causes stress and can be fatal.
Death and disease
Fish naturally carry a variety of pathogenic It has been acknowledged that ‘indiscriminate bacteria, fungi and parasites. Aquariums also and improper use of chemicals, including harbour these organisms, which are especially antibiotics, in fish is widespread in the aquatic prevalent in the gravel bed.32 Healthy fish with animal industry’.36 Industry representatives healthy immune systems should be able to fight recommend a host of treatments to combat the off these ever-present disease organisms but stresses inherent in breeding and transporting unhealthy fish may fall victim. After the ordeal of aquarium fish. As seen in the intensive animal transportation in crowded plastic bags, fish are farming industry, this is typically only a stressed and particularly vulnerable to falling sick.
short-term solution. The internet company Aquapharm have admitted that the ‘use of reserves, fish are able to adapt to stress for a traditional antibacterial medications has led to finite period but eventually, they become increased resistance of bacterial fish pathogens exhausted. At this point, their ability to resist the to medications’. It proceeds to recommend mass drug treatments to combat disease, stating that ‘[t]ropical fish retailers have found that treatingall new fish with MelaFix reduces fish loss and Hormones released from the adrenal gland during stressful periods suppress the fishes'inflammatory response. Inflammation is It is common for fish-keepers to administer characterized by pain, swelling, redness or heat haphazardly a series of treatments to aquariums and constitute a protective response - an attempt in attempts to cure sick fish. Florida university by the body to destroy an invading bacteria, researchers state, ‘[a] common mistake of fish virus, parasite, fungus or toxin. Without this culturists is misdiagnosing disease problems and resistance, the fishes' ability to combat disease is medication or chemical. When the chemicaldoesn't work, they will try another, then range of infectious and non-infectious diseases.
Infectious diseases are contagious and caused byparasites, bacteria, viruses or fungi. They are Vac c ines for u l cer disease
usually treated with medication. Non-infectious c o m m e r c i a l
diseases can be environmental, nutritional orgenetic.33 A major study, sponsored by the Department common amongst ornamental fish. Typically, they will develop small blister-like raised lesions along (DEFRA) and backed by Heriot Watt University the body wall and/or fins. The gills become and commercial organisations including Neil swollen and covered with thick mucus. If the infection spreads beyond the gills, white spots development and use of vaccines to control become visible. Ich can cause massive mortality ulcer disease in coldwater ornamental fish. Their initial research states that ‘[l]arge numbers ofindividuals of these species (they refer to gold- Sick ffish: Sick fish often stop feeding and may fish and koi carp) are imported annually into the appear lethargic. Healthy fish should eat UK. However, there is an ongoing problem of aggressively if fed at regularly scheduled times.
disease, namely ulcer disease, which may infect Sick fish may be observed hanging listlessly in large numbers of fish. This disease may occur shallow water, gasping at the surface or rubbing during transportation during the UK or develop against objects. They may develop sores (ulcers or haemorrhages), ragged fins, a distended, swollenabdomen and exopthalmia or 'popeye'.35 The researchers see vaccination as an excitingcommercial opportunity. ‘Opportunities for sales of any successful vaccines would be global, and exclusively of freshwater species. Malaysian air- provide the UK with excellent opportunities to port procedures have now been simplified in an establish overseas markets…. Countries such as attempt to stop the ‘massive mortalities’ that Japan, Israel, China and the USA among others were occurring whilst exporters were held up at produce significant volumes of goldfish and koi.
These countries would represent significantexport opportunities for any company The Israeli industry
producing an effective vaccine and vaccinationstrategy.’40 The annual turnover of the Israeli ornamental fishand marine plant industry is $12 million. The fish The industry
are exported overseas, mainly to Europe. Israelifish farmers work closely with Agrexco - the Big business
country's leading agricultural exporter.
Ornamental fish and plants are sold under the Ornamental fish are big business. They are kept 'Carmel' label, also seen on other Israeli products by between 3 and 3.5 million households in the UK, making them the third most popular pet A new disease sprung up in Israeli fish farms group after dogs and cats. One industry survey between May 1998 and early 2000, resulting in massive mortalities. It was labeled Koi Herpes population at 100 million. Retail sales of fish and Virus (KHV). Exports of Israeli-bred Koi dropped associated goods amount to between £200 and dramatically in a short space of time and the £300 million a year, with coldwater fish disease began occurring in other countries.
contributing heavily to this figure. Around 2000 Export levels are only just recovering. Affected retail outlets sell live fish, more than 100 fish suffer from white patches on their gills, businesses import and wholesale them, and there excessive mucus production, bleeding, ulceration, are several hundred manufacturers servicing the sunken eyes and spurts of intense activity needs of the industry. In total, more than 12 interspersed with periods of lethargy. Most fish million ornamental fish are imported from all Conclusions
The Malaysian Industry
Fish are sensitive creatures with complex needs.
The global retail value of the Malaysian Their mass production and transportation is ornamental fish industry is estimated at RM20 profoundly traumatising and results in a host of billion (£1 = approximately 6 Malaysian Ringitts) disease problems and high levels of mortality.
but this increases fivefold if aquarium systems Animal Aid is against keeping fish in aquariums and accessories and feeds, drugs and other plants per se. However, it is particularly inappropriate are included. Accessories include water filtration for DIY chains like Focus to sell fish. The systems, pumps, aerators, lighting, water heating purchaser – who will often buy on impulse - may systems and water sterilisation equipment. have no idea how to identify and treat sick fish orwhat conditions are necessary to give them some The industry started up in the 1950s and has semblance of a comfortable life. Goldfish can live been developing heavily, with government for 25 years; something the impulse buyer is support, since the 1980s. There are more than unlikely to have taken into consideration.
400 farms, with 90% producing ornamental fishand 10% producing natural feed and aquatic All the evidence points to the fact that ornamental fish do not thrive in captivity and potential for industry expansion and offers instead become stressed and sick. Animal Aid is support services and fiscal incentives to promote delighted by the public pledge by Focus to end all its development. The government's National ornamental fish sales, and urges members of the Agriculture Policy calls for the development of aquaculture, aquarium fish included. 96% of fish purchase of fish, from whatever outlet.
are exported and the industry is made up almost References
1 TE Schwedler (Clemson University, South Carolina); SK Johnson (Wildlife & Fisheries Science, Texas A&M University) Responsible Care and Health Maintenance of Fish in Commercial Aquaculture 2 TE Schwedler (Clemson University, South Carolina) & SK Johnson (Wildlife & Fisheries Science, Texas A&M University) Responsible Care and Health Maintenance of Fish in Commercial Aquaculture 3 Farm Animal Welfare Council Report on the Welfare of Farmed Fish, September 1996 4 In T. Brattelid and AJ Smith, Laboratory Animals (2000) 34, 131-135 5 T.G. Pottinger, Fish Welfare Literature Review, The Institute of Freshwater Ecology, May 1995 7 Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B: Biological Sciences Vol. 270, No. 1520 8 9 Department of Environmental Services, Heathrow Animal Reception Centre 2003 10 Craig A Watson & Jerome V Shireman Production of Ornamental Fish University of Florida June 1996 11 Craig A. Watson & Jerome V Shireman Production of Ornamental Fish University of Florida June 1996 12 Craig A. Watson & Jerome V Shireman Production of Ornamental Fish University of Florida Coop etc, June 1996 13 Michael McGee and Charles Cichra Fish Handling & Transport University of Florida Fact Sheet FA-3 May 1997 15 Floyd, R.F Introduction to Fish Health Management University of Florida May 1997 16 17 Floyd, R.F Introduction to Fish Health Management University of Florida May 1997 18 Sandford, G. &Banister, K.E. The Trade In Tropical Freshwater Fish in the UK RSPCA 1991 19 Brian Cole et al Shipping Practices in the Ornamental Fish Industry CTSA Publication No. 131 February 1999 20 Brian Cole et al Shipping Practices in the Ornamental Fish Industry CTSA Publication No. 131 February 1999 21 Brian Cole et al Shipping Practices in the Ornamental Fish Industry CTSA Publication No. 131 February 1999 22 Brian Cole et al Shipping Practices in the Ornamental Fish Industry CTSA Publication No. 131 February 1999 25 Floyd, R.F Introduction to Fish Health Management University of Florida May 1997 26 Watson, C.A & Shireman, J.V Production of Ornamental Fish, University of Florida June 1996 27 Floyd, R.F Introduction to Fish Health Management University of Florida May 1997 28 Floyd, R.F Introduction to Fish Health Management University of Florida May 1997 30 Dr Barbara Maas Prepared and Shipped RSPCA 2000 32 33 Floyd, R.F Introduction to Fish Health Management University of Florida May 1997 34 Klinger, R.E & Floyd, R.F Introduction to Freshwater Fish Parasites Circular 716 University of Florida 1998 (1987) 35 Klinger, R.E & Floyd, R.F Introduction to Freshwater Fish Parasites Circular 716 University of Florida 1998 (1987) 36 Whitaker, B.R Preventative Medicine Programs for Fish 1999 in Fowler, M.E & Miller R.E (eds) Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine (2nd edition) Saunders 37 38 Klinger, R.E & Floyd, R.F Introduction to Freshwater Fish Parasites Circular 716 University of Florida 1998 (1987)


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