The question has been pondered since time immemorial -- and considering the seeming torture a fish undergoes before becoming seafood it's a worthy one.
Do fish feel pain?
In a new study published in the journal Fish and Fisheries, a team of scientists concludes they do not.
In the study's abstract, researchers at the University of Wyoming conclude, "Even if fishes were conscious, it is unwarranted to assume that they possess a human-like capacity for pain."
Previous scientific studies have suggested just the opposite. Much of the debate comes down to the presence in fish of nociceptors -- sensory receptors that detect physical damage and send a signal to the brain that equates to a feeling of pain.
At least, that's how nociceptors work in humans.
Rose's team, on the other hand, argues their presence in fish does not necessarily mean they work the same. Rather, when a fish writhes on an angler's line, it's simply acting instinctively.
Instead of acting out of pain, the fish acts reflexively.
In a 2003 study, researchers at the University of Edinburgh injected the lips of rainbow trout with acid. Scientists then observed "profound behavioural and physiological changes" in the fish, including rubbing their mouths against objects.
According to a New Scientist report, it is impossible to determine whether another being is feeling pain -- but the next best thing is to look for a behavioural response.
But Professor Robert Arlinghaus, a member of the team that conducted the latest study, suggests that is a big assumption -- and one that has fueled much debate between anglers and animal rights advocates.
“I think that fish welfare is very important, but I also think that fishing and science is too,” he said in The Telegraph.
“There are many conflicts surrounding the issue of pain and whether fish can feel it, and often anglers are portrayed as cruel sadists. It's an unnecessary social conflict.”
The rhinoceros beetle (pictured) can push around 850 times its weight.
Largest Invertebrate (Land)
The coconut crab weighs about 6.6 pounds and its legs can span up to two and a half feet Liz Hall from the Melbourne Aquarium inspects Coconut Crab as he takes possesion of a coconut in Melbourne, 19 December 2006. They Coconut crab (also known as the Robber Crab) are the largest living crab in the world and can climb coconut trees to harvest coconuts which they can break with their huge nippers and have been gruesomely know to feed on injured or unconcious people in the bush. (William West, AFP / Getty Images)
The giant squid is the world's largest invertebrate, and the largest ever measured was 59 feet long. Giant squids also have the largest eyes of any animal, each one about the size of a human head.
The etruscan shrew is the smallest mammal (by weight) in the world. The smallest animal by skull size is the bumblebee bat.
Most Venomous Animal
The sea wasp jellyfish (pictured) has enough venom to kill 60 adult humans. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/65578066@N00" target="_hplink">Guido Gautsch/Flickr</a>
Arctic terns migrate about 11,000 miles to the Antarctic each year...and then come all the way back! An Arctic Tern dives down to protect its nest on June 24, 2011 on Inner Farne, England. (Dan Kitwood, Getty Images)
Blue whales' low-frequency pulses can be heard over 500 miles way. At 188 decibels, these sounds are louder than a jet engine. In this picture taken on March 26, 2009, shows a blue whale swimming in the deep waters off the southern Sri Lankan town of Mirissa. (Ishara S. Kodikara, AFP / Getty Images)
World's Most Extreme Animals
North African ostriches run up to 45 miles an hour, making them the fastest land bird. They are also the biggest, weighing up to 345 pounds. An african ostrich eats at the Addo National Elephant Park, north of Port Elizabeth, on June 24, 2010. South Africa is hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. (Patrick Hertzog, AFP / Getty Images)
Peregrine falcons dive toward their prey at over 200 mph. A young male Peregrine Falcon eats meat taken from the protective glove of Taronga Zoo bird trainer Erin Stone (unseen) following a short flying lesson in Sydney on December 9, 2009. (Greg Wood, AFP / Getty Images)
Sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 68 mph, although experts disagree as to just which species of sailfish is the fastest. Sailfish jumping out of the water on January 16, 2006 in the Florida Keys, Florida. (Ronald C. Modra, Sports Imagery / Getty Images)
Cheetahs can run at speeds up to 70 mph. Majani, a 2-year-old male African cheetah, exhibits lighting speed Friday, March 19, 2004 while chasing a mechanical rabbit at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park as part of the Park's environmental enrichment program. (Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo / AP)
Three giant tortoises are estimated to have lived over 175 years, with one estimated at a whopping 255 years. Image: Harriet, who died in 2006, was thought to be the third longest-lived tortoise on record. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctorow/123660557/" target="_hplink">Cory Doctorow/Creative Commons</a>
World's Most Extreme Animals
African elephants are the heaviest and second tallest land animals. Large males can exceed 13,000 pounds and are 12 feet tall at the shoulder. This photo made on February 10, 2011 shows an elephant in Tsavo west national park, some 350 kilometres southeast of Nairobi. (Tony Karumba, AFP / Getty Images)