The Sentient World of Fishes

MONDAY,  April 14
3:30PM - 4:30PM
Room: Montreal Ballroom
Simultaneous English-to-French interpretation available for this session.

Jonathan Balcombe, Author of What A Fish Knows, Pleasurable Kingdom, and Second Nature

Fish are the most exploited of all vertebrates. They are also the most underestimated by us. This presentation highlights some of the many scientific discoveries about fish that belie their “primitive” reputation and show them to be complex beings whose sophistication rivals terrestrial animals. Careful studies have debunked the widespread myth that fish do not feel pain. Furthermore, fish are intelligent and emotional, even Machiavellian. Among their achievements, fish have personalities, they plan, recognize, remember, court, play, parent, innovate, manipulate, collaborate, keep accounts, show virtue, form attachments, communicate with gestures, fall for optical illusions, use tools, learn by observation, form mental maps, behave differently according to who’s watching (audience effects), and possess culture. Against this backdrop, the cruel deaths of hundreds of billions of fish at human hands each year—by suffocation, crushing, decompression and bleeding—amount to an enormous welfare problem. Given the ecological toll we are taking on fish species and their habitats, and the ethical toll on legions of individual fish, we need a new mind-set, informed by science and driven by compassion.

Coming Soon!

Jonathan Balcombe is a biologist with a PhD in ethology, the study of animal behavior. His books include Pleasurable Kingdom, Second Nature, and The Exultant Ark. His latest book, What a Fish Knows, became a New York Times best-seller and has been translated into twelve languages. In addition to writing books, Jonathan does professional editing for aspiring and established authors. He also serves as an Associate Editor for the journal Animal Sentience, and teaches a course in animal sentience for the Viridis Graduate Institute. A popular speaker, Jonathan has lectured on six continents (the penguins eagerly await his arrival in Antarctica). Jonathan is currently working on a book about the lives of insects, which will be published by—you guessed it—Penguin Press. In his spare time he enjoys biking, baking, birding, Bach, and trying to understand the neighborhood squirrels.