In a move sure to evoke derision in this fishing state, the animal-rights organization PETA has asked Gov. Frank Murkowski to stop all Alaska...

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ANCHORAGE — In a move sure to evoke derision in this fishing state, the animal-rights organization PETA has asked Gov. Frank Murkowski to stop all Alaska fishing for king salmon.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, faxed a letter to Murkowski on Friday, claiming that recent studies show fish to be “intelligent animals who feel pain.”

“(W)e are writing to request that you declare King Salmon, the state fish, off limits to fishing,” Karin Robertson, manager of the group’s “fish-empathy project,” wrote to the Republican governor.

The governor’s press secretary, Becky Hultberg, seemed somewhat incredulous. She said PETA had addressed the letter to Murkowski, “Governor of Alabama.”

Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s director, said the Alabama reference was an error and that Alaska is among the first targets in the group’s 6-month-old fish-empathy campaign.

Hultberg said PETA had less than a zero chance of persuading Murkowski.

Friedrich, who spoke by phone Friday night from Washington, D.C., said PETA was not deluded. The letter had other purposes.

“We hope that everybody will find it to be provocative and think about why we would ask the governor to take this step,” he said. “The reality is that fish are interesting individuals and feel pain every bit as much as dogs and cats.”

Fish, Friedrich added, even have long-term memories.

PETA argues on one of its Web sites (www.fishinghurts.com) that neurobiologists have confirmed that fish feel pain and emotional distress when hooked. PETA supports its position by citing several scientific studies.

Such conclusions simply are wrong, wrote James Rose, a professor at the University of Wyoming who has studied the neurobiology of fish.

“In order to show that a fish experiences pain, it is necessary to show that a fish has consciousness,” he wrote in a critique of the academy article posted on his Web site at the University of Wyoming. “Without consciousness, there is no pain.”