Leading NZ animal rights charity SAFE has launched a new campaign, Fishes Belong in the Sea, designed to raise awareness of fishes in captivity and inspire people to take action by saying ‘No Thanks to Fish Tanks’.

We have all seen, and quite possibly admired fishes in captivity.  They are beautiful, fascinating and mesmerising to watch, which is why many people keep them on display in tanks and aquariums.  But sadly, just like zoos, aquariums do not allow fishes to display normal patterns of behaviour in a natural environment.

Someone, not something

Fishes are sentient animals. They have the capacity to suffer and they experience positive and negative emotional states that matter to their welfare. Sadly, fishes are misunderstood by many and are often overlooked when it comes to animal welfare. They deserve to be recognised as individuals and celebrated for their unique attributes. Fishes have sophisticated social structures and exhibit a range of complex and fascinating social behaviour. They communicate with one another, show curiosity and can learn from experience and observation. Contrary to popular belief, fishes have long-term memories and are capable of tool use, altruism, cooperation and multi-tasking. 

Fishes are amazing!  Trapped in aquariums and tiny fish tanks however, fishes in captivity are unable to express normal behaviours, such as swimming vast distances, searching for food or forming natural social structures.

Don’t be captivated by captivity

Most of the saltwater fish destined for captivity are taken from ocean reefs, using cyanide. This stuns the fishes, so they can be easily caught. Only a small percentage of the fish destined for aquariums are bred in captivity.

‘For every ten fish captured for the aquarium industry, only one survives enough time to end up in a tank’ – The Dark Hobby

Fishes as pets

Contrary to popular belief, fishes do not make good first pets for children. The needs of fishes are far more complex than the needs of cats and dogs, making it easy to unwittingly compromise their welfare or create elevated stress levels that can sometimes result in death. Simply over-feeding fishes, moving them or not paying attention to water temperature and acidity levels can have a disastrous result.

Fishes do not want to swim in circles inside a bowl or tank, or be put on display like a painting!  When we invite animals into our lives and families, it should be mutually beneficial. Fishes gain nothing from being kept in captivity ‒ instead they are deprived of all that is natural to them.

Speak out for fishes in captivity – sign the pledge today!

The fishes need your voice.  By saying ‘No Thanks to Fish Tanks’, you are making a personal commitment to speak out for fishes in captivity.  Other simple actions you can also take include:

1. Not visiting aquariums.
2. Speaking out when you see fishes displayed in tanks.
3. Spreading the word that fishes are sentient, intelligent and belong in the sea.
4. Do your bit to protect the ocean and all who call it home by taking the Fish-Free Challenge today!
5. Download and print this educational infographic explaining why fishes don’t belong in captivity and distribute it to businesses that display fishes in tanks.                                                  
6. If you already have fishes as pets, you can help them by making their surroundings as close to their natural environment as possible, with plenty of enrichment, places to hide and as much space as you are able to give them.

Information from SAFE, reproduced with permission

Vegan FTA's Jackie Norman is a freelance writer of more than 20 years, specialising in food, travel, simple living and vegan/environmental issues. An ex-beef and dairy farmer prior to going vegan, Jackie puts her years of experience to good use, by speaking out globally for the animals and opening the eyes of others to the horror and reality of the dairy and beef industries.