Jorge Brito, president of the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Maritime Interests Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.

Chilean MP withdraws fishing law clause after facing ridicule


A member of the Chilean parliament has withdrawn a proposed addition to a new fisheries law after being ridiculed for backing claims that fish that have learned to play football, do tricks, and use tools.

The claims were made by Ignacia Uribe, founder and general director of the NGO Fundación Veg (Veg Foundation), and author of the book How To Be Vegan Today. She was addressing the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Maritime Interests Commission of the Chamber of Deputies (Chile’s lower house) as part of a discussion of a new General Fisheries Law, and asked deputies: “How conscious can a fish be?”

Uribe stated that “fish are more than numbers and tonnes. Each one of these fish is an individual with its personality, thoughts, interests and memory. There are shy and daring fish, they have learned to play soccer, to do tricks and use tools.”

Mental state

Deputy (MP) Jorge Brito, a member of the ruling Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition and president of the committee, took note of the proposals made by the Veg Foundation for inclusion into the law and used them word-for-word in his own submission, or indication, for the draft law. Although the law concerns fishing, Brito's indication would have had implications for fish farming.

They swim, they shoot, they score! Meet the footballing 'goalfish'

A footballing fish is not quite as far fetched as it sounds, as shown by a video shared by the South China Morning Post in which a soccer-loving goldfish grower, Yang Tianxin, has trained the Ranchu goldfish to push a ball into a net. It took him six months.

“I train them slowly by rewarding them with some food every time they score,” says Yang in the video, which is three years old. “Eventually it became a conditioned response. That’s how I trained them.”

“It was very hard to train them at the beginning. They couldn’t shoot at all. Because this breed is not very smart, so it took me a long time to teach them,” added Yang, who said the fish lose interest quickly if they aren’t fed.

“The State will establish the necessary mechanisms to guarantee the correct management of sentient hydrobiological resources in industrial fishing. The physical and mental state of the animal must be respected at all times, so it will be strictly prohibited to cause unnecessary stress and pain, treat them cruelly, or prolong their agony, which includes fish, crustaceans and molluscs, essentiall,” stated Brito’s indication.

However, the parliamentarian’s approach generated various reactions, giving rise to memes, viral videos and even international mockery from neighbouring Argentina, which questioned the seriousness with which legislation is passed in Chile.

'My God, poor Chile'

“Fish that play soccer. Maybe some of these fish could go to the Chilean national team, which was left out (of the Copa America). They might be smarter than more than one of those sitting there. My God, poor Chile,” commented journalist Eduardo Feinmann, from the Argentine media La Nación.

As reported by TV news programme T13 and following criticism from the opposition and discomfort also in some sectors of the ruling party, Brito withdrew the indication in the new Fishing Law that sought to establish respect for the “physical and mental state” of “sentient” aquatic beings.

“The indication no longer exists, it was withdrawn and replaced by one that applies the principle that is present in the Chilean aquaculture law of 1992 and establishes that animal welfare must be promoted and unnecessary suffering avoided. We have proposed the principle of animal welfare and those who make wrong interpretations of this, such as that it is therapy for fish or that this will end artisanal fishing, should know that this is not true in any case and what they are hiding is that they do not want to replace the current Fisheries Law,” said the parliamentarian.

A nonsense

Speaking to Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister site,, Los Lagos Region MP Alejandro Bernales described the motion as “a complete nonsense, which transforms a bill that should be serious and profound into something completely superficial. Therefore, we value the fact that this motion of animalist extremism is withdrawn from the Commission.”

MP Mauro González said that “the focus of the discussion should be on what interests fishing, on the important things. This ideology only pushes fishing, aquaculture, salmon farming and all the productive sources that are linked to seafarers to the back burner.

“We cannot think of placing the interests of animals above those of people. What would be next? Will we have to demand that a psychologist, an ethologist or a professional be on the boats with the fishermen or in the farming centres? It makes no sense. The call is to focus on what is important, because even this indication has been the object of ridicule at an international level, and we are not here for that. We are here to legislate in a serious manner and for seafarers, achieving together a new and good General Law on Fishing.”