How smart are fish? Integrating what scientists and fishers know

The talks in this event will challenge the commonly-held view of fish as robot-like animals with no intelligence and a 30 second memory, which often leads to fish conservation being ignored in favour of more charismatic animals. As our first talk will show, this view is very far from the truth.

Fish vary of course, but the group as a whole have a well-developed capacity for learning, a good memory when this is needed and perform many complex behaviours that in mammals, for example, would be deemed intelligent or “smart”. Thus fish form mental maps, use tools, build complicated structures and develop traditions.

The dissonance between popular image and reality arises because most people do not have the time or opportunity to discover just how complex fish behaviour is. However, it needn’t be this way. Recreational anglers spend a lot of time observing and interacting with fish, so in this session we will explore what they have to say about how smart fish are. We will draw on the experience and observations of our second speaker, a lifelong angler and commentator, and also, we hope, on the expertise of anglers in the audience.

Our aim is to promote creative discussion between people with different perspectives and to highlight the value of the traditional knowledge that anglers possess and pass on to successive generations.



  • Felicity Huntingford, Universities of Stirling & Glasgow

Felicity has worked on the behaviour of fish for more than 45 years, having a special interest in their social interactions and how they avoid predators. She served as President of the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (dates) and of the World Council of Fisheries Societies and is the 2016 Buckland Professor of Fisheries.

  • Charles Jardine, Angler

Charles is a renowned angler with extensive knowledge of fish, their behaviour and the ecosystems that support them, gained throughout a life-time of angling and fly-fishing. He started fishing at three and was fly fishing at six. As early as 1959, he and his father were operating a catch-and-release policy on the Lesser Stour. Charles became an angling columnist for The Daily Telegraph and a contributor to fly-fishing magazines and wrote Sotheby’s Guide to Fly Fishing, a best-selling book of the genre.


Attending this event

  • This Science and Conservation Event is free to attend but registration in advance is required.

  • Please register before 26th October.  Space is limited to 150 places.

  • Venue: Huxley Lecture Theatre, Main Meeting Rooms, ZSL London Zoo. See map

  • Underground – Camden Town Station; Nearest bus - no. 274

  • Doors open at 5pm for a 6pm start.

  • Seats are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

  • Talks will be followed by refreshments.



18:00 Arrive/ refreshments

18:30 Felicity Huntingford - How smart are fish and why does this matter?

19:15 Charles Jardine - Fishing for knowledge: observations of a life-long angler

20.00 Open discussion. How do fishers learn what they know and how can we use this knowledge?

20:30 Refreshments



Contact Dave Righton, CEFAS,


Buckland Foundation logo 2 Nov
ZSL, Buckland Foundation


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