“We have looked at which indicators work best in seven different production systems,” says scientist Jelena Kolarevic. PHOTO. TERJE AAMODT © NOFIMA

Project Year 2017

Book on fish welfare

 Production biology  

Scientists have compiled a handbook containing research-based advice on the best indicators to use to assess farmed salmon welfare.

In the 328 page guide, the researchers outline a number of “welfare indicators” – individual factors that each say something about the fish’s level of welfare. Examples include appetite, emaciation, surface activity, reflexes, behaviour, epidermal injuries, fin damage, gill status, sea lice levels and temperature.

40 different indicators

Operational Welfare Indicators (OWIs) are indicators that fish farmers can easily use in their day-to-day operations. Laboratory-based Welfare Indicators (LABWIs) are sampled on the farm but then sent to a laboratory for evaluation. The book covers some 40 different indicators and outlines the different rearing systems and routines they are best suited to.

“The goals of the project are to provide the user with correct fit-for-purpose tools for measuring fish welfare, based upon sound science. With this in mind, the FISHWELL team have reviewed the fish’s welfare needs and what scientifically documented welfare indicators are suitable for salmon.” says senior scientist Chris Noble, who has led the FISHWELL project.

A milestone

The manual is divided into three parts. The first gives an updated scientific overview of the welfare needs of salmon at different stages of life and the different welfare indicators. The second part tells us which indicators are most appropriate to use in different aquaculture facilities. The last part provides good advice on how to monitor the fishes’ welfare under different husbandry routines or practices, for example during transport or for harvesting.

“The work that has been done is a milestone, and has resulted in a tool box with welfare indicators that are easy to use and will help fish farmers be better able to document fish welfare. At the same time, it is important to note that the reports do not directly indicate what is considered acceptable or not; this is up to others to evaluate,” says Kjell Maroni, FHF’s R&D Director for aquaculture.

In 2019 a corresponding guide will be published for rainbow trout.

The Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, North University in Bodø and the University of Stirling, UK

The Fiskery and Aquaculture Industry research Fund (FHF)

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