Helping farmers maintain and improve fish welfare

How can aquaculturists and capture-based aquaculturists reduce the incidence and severity of injuries and deformities in their fish? A team of international scientists have recently published a review paper that aims to synthesise practical, state of the art knowledge on this matter.

Facts about COST

COST is an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology.

A recent EU COST Action on fish welfare was specifically devised to improve our knowledge and understanding of fish welfare, and synthesise a range of welfare guidelines and protocols for use in the aquaculture industry.

A special issue of the journal Fish Physiology and Biochemistry has been published by scientists from the COST initiative on fish welfare. It includes the above review paper and four other publications that Nofima scientists are involved in. Review topics include

  1. how demand feeding and
  2. feeding time affects fish welfare and
  3. a review on the range of behavioural welfare indicators that can be used in aquaculture

Download the review paper from the Fish Physiology and Biochemistry website.

Co-authors on the review paper are from the University of Cambridge, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science, Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries and the University of Guelph.

Fish farmers and capture-based aquaculturists constantly strive to improve their production practices, with the specific aims of improving production efficiency, product quality and fish welfare.

“These aims are not mutually exclusive. By optimising production, farmers can also improve fish welfare” says lead author Chris Noble from Nofima.

Researchers, producers and consumers are increasingly interested in fish welfare, and this has led to numerous industry-led improvements in daily husbandry practices. These production practices not only improve the lives of farmed fish, but also improve the quality of fish further down the value chain. In addition, producers who implement welfare friendly production practices are increasingly rewarded in the market place – fish raised to high welfare standards can gain additional price premiums.

Practical solutions in user friendly format

As part of an EU COST initiative on fish welfare (see fact box), four Nofima scientists teamed up with collaborators from Canada, the UK, Australia and Spain to write a review paper on how producers can eliminate or combat factors that lead to injuries and deformities in farmed fish. The paper provides producers with operational solutions a range of farmed species through the production cycle.

“We wrote the paper to help farmers identify risk factors for injury during the production cycle and also highlighted any practices that can reduce or mitigate these risks” says co-author Bjørn-Steinar Sæther, also of Nofima.

The scientists used the same approach for capture-based aquaculture as for aquaculture. The paper focuses on external injuries to the mouth, eye, epidermis and fins, and covers topics including feed management, nutrition, handling and live transport.

The paper collates the latest findings and provides producers with state of the art knowledge on the subject, bringing together research from over 175 scientific publications. It was driven by the needs of the farming and capture-based aquaculture community and is in a format that is both informative and user friendly.

A sister paper, focusing on internal injuries is planned for 2013.

 Production biology  

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