Finding Nemo captured the imagination of many children and adults who were enchanted by Marlin and Dory’s journey across the ocean to rescue baby Nemo. While these fictional fish enjoy a special place in our hearts, fish in the real world suffer from systemic cruelty and disregard. Scientific evidence conclusively demonstrates that fish feel pain, and yet they are exploited and killed on a massive scale via the food industry, cruel “sports,” the pet trade, and laboratories. August 1 is Respect for Fish Day—a national day of action endorsed by over 250 organizations to change this status quo by inspiring compassion and advocacy for fish. Here are eight ways you can mark Respect for Fish Day and help our finned friends.
1. Spread the word on social media
Post about Respect for Fish Day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the #Respect4Fish hashtag. Feel free to use the graphics in this Dropbox folder or get creative and design your own images and graphics.
2. Support plant-based seafood companies
There are handfuls of fantastic companies such as Good Catch and Sophie’s Kitchen that produce healthy, delicious plant-based fish products. If your local supermarket offers these analogs, leave a comment card to show your appreciation. If it doesn’t, contact management and politely request that they start selling vegan seafood. Making vegan seafood readily available will help alleviate the suffering caused by industrial fish farming and commercial fishing.
3. Submit a letter to the editor
Submitting a letter to the editor in your local newspaper is a great way to raise awareness about issues affecting fish. Letters are usually between 150-200 words although each newspaper has its own unique guidelines which should be followed. Letters are most effective when they use local issues to highlight the broader message that fish are sentient and deserving of protection. For instance, you can write about endangered fish species who reside in your county, call out a local fishing contest, or urge people to adopt fish from the municipal animal shelter. See this guide for more detailed instructions and sample letters.
4. Become a Respect for Fish Day ally
If you belong to an organization that supports Respect for Fish Day’s goals, please sign on as an ally of the campaign. You don’t need to be an animal protection group to sign on. Environmental groups, companies, religious institutions, etc. are all welcome.
5. Boycott companies that test on animals
After rodents, fish are the most exploited animals in laboratories and are subjected to a range of painful experiments. In one cruel procedure, fish are exposed to toxic chemicals for 96 hours and the number of animals who die is calculated. Urge your friends and family to pull their support from companies that test their products on fish (or other animals) and only purchase from cruelty-free brands that are Leaping Bunny-approved.
6. Adopt fish who need homes
If you would like to keep fish as companions, opt to adopt instead of purchasing them from a pet store. You can contact your local animal shelter and ask it to notify you when fish are available for adoption.
7. Speak up if you see fish being abused
If you suspect that fish are being mistreated, direct their guardian to resources about proper fish care. Pet stores often misinform customers and, as a result, many people unwittingly neglect fish in their care. If the issue escalates, you can report the abuse to your local humane society or animal control agency. Fish are protected by animal cruelty laws in most states and cruelty against them can be prosecuted just like cruelty against any other animal. Check your state’s animal cruelty statute to determine your state’s status, and if you live in a region where fish aren’t protected, contact your legislators and urge them to change this.
8. Take action against fishing tournaments
If a fishing contest is held in your area, politely contact the event’s organizers, sponsors, and hosting venues to express concerns about animal cruelty. Fish caught for sport sustain serious injuries and many die or develop permanent disabilities if they are released. Many of the species targeted in tournaments—such as sharks and marlin—are threatened or endangered.
For more information on Respect for Fish Day and how you can support the campaign, please see the campaign’s participation guide, outreach brochure, and website. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nadia Schilling is the Farmed Animals Campaign Director at In Defense of Animals
Shimon Shuchat is the Respect for Fish Day Campaign Coordinator at In Defense of Animals.