UnsavouryTrophy Hunt

23 February, 2022

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I grew up by the sea and spend every summer in the archipelago. For me, catching fish is natural, on a hook or in a net. Although I like the fight during the drill, I have always fished for food. But I have never thought about what the fish feels or by what right I fish for my own pleasure. Until a year ago. Then we made in Deep Sea Productions “The Fishers’ Universe” for Vetenskapens värld, SVT. It would have far-reaching consequences. Not least for my family life.

The film deals with current research on the issue:

Can fish feel pain? The story was an eye-opener for myself and my children. My sons have been my best fishing buddies. The film changed everything. We received many reactions from scientists and the public, but very few from anglers. It surprised me. Is the subject too sensitive?

In “The Universe of Fish” , highly respected international scientists describe what happens when fish are drilled and how many released fish are at risk of dying from the stress they are subjected to. We were taught to minimise the time the fish is held above the surface and to take care not to damage the vital mucus layer, which protects against infection.

In Sweden and many other countries,Catch&Release has become popular. All the catch is released and the angler has the pleasure of playing with the fish until it gives up in exhaustion. The method is considered to protect endangered fish stocks from extinction. But what happens to fish that are released? What right do we have to play with an animal that feels pain? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to stop fishing if the species is endangered?

I hoped in my stupidity that our film would have some small impact on anglers’ view of fish; that they are living, feeling animals. We don’t know anything about the fish’s experience of pain – but there’s no doubt that it feels it.

One year after the premiere, I can say that everything seems to be the same in the world of sport fishing:

Sport fishing magazines continue to sell on showing caught trophy fish on the cover. On TV, I see presenters and guests holding hooked fish in the air as they talk about the glorious fight, the beauty of fish – and then releasing them. Towards an unknown destiny; the trophy hunt is distasteful.

For me, who loves fly fishing, the new knowledge means that I never engage inCatch&Release. I only fish in waters where there is enough stock to catch fish to eat – Catch&Cook! Of course, if the fish I hook is under or over the permitted size, I release it, after handling it carefully. Barbless hooks are now a matter of course.

But for one of my sons, my efforts are not enough. The film has left a deep mark. The son cannot imagine continuing with a hobby that involves hooking an animal in pain. But he promises to come along on my fishing trips:

“I tend the fire and make the coffee”.

The universe of fish has attracted considerable international interest. We are planning an international version, where a legend of the sea will add her deep knowledge and strong opinions: oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earl.

The full film is available on SVT Play

Text: Peter Löfgren
Reportage: Johan Candert
Photo: Simon Stanford
UV Photo: Johan Candert
Editor: Daniel Hedström, Alexandre Gobatti Ramos

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