"We now know that fish actually are cognitively more competent than we thought before - some species of fish have very sophisticated forms of cognition," she said in a press release. "In our experiments we showed that if we hurt fish, they react, and then if we give them pain relief, they change their behavior, strongly indicating that they feel pain."
She was initially drawn to the issue after reading about fish-farming concerns.
"By 2030, half of all fish that humans eat will come from fish farms," she said. "It seemed logical to me to care about fish, because agriculture in general is confronting animal-welfare issues. If we are concerned about animal welfare, we should be concerned about fish welfare."
She believes the United States is 10 years behind Europe now in its thinking about the way it keeps and kills animals in agriculture. Those concerns are just now starting to be extended to aquaculture.
"Electrical stunning may change the way we harvest fish at sea," she said. "We have a responsibility, I think, to make clean and quick kills of fish we eat. Certainly, most of us are not comfortable with piles of fish slowly suffocating on the decks of fishing trawlers at sea and in port. People are rightly asking: ‘Isn't there a better way?'"