Assessing fish welfare out on the farm
A lot of research has been carried out on fish welfare over the last few years. But this knowledge is not always readily available to those who need it. An FHF funded research project named FISHWELL will gather and update our knowledge on fish welfare in Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, putting it together as an operational handbook for the farmers.
This research project is a joint effort between Nofima, the Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, Nord University and the University of Stirling in the UK.
The project will focus on evaluating fish welfare using Operational Welfare Indicators (OWIs) defining the OWIs that are most appropriate for different life stages, rearing systems and husbandry routines. This will help farmers identify where their production stands in relation to the specific welfare needs of the fish and allow them to identify areas of strength (best practice) and also provide assurance on acceptable levels of fish welfare.
– We are nearly half way through the project, says Nofima’s Senior Scientist Chris Noble. We have put a lot of groundwork into updating our welfare knowledge for each species and life-stage. The next phase will involve assessing which welfare indicators are most suitable for different rearing systems and husbandry practices, such as crowding, harvesting and other procedures. Thereafter, in close consultation with the steering group and other interested parties from the industry, the project partners will continue to work on how this updated knowledge can be put to use out on the farms, in the best and most practical way possible.
Chris is heading up the year-long research project that has a budget of approximately 7 million NOK.
– The handbook will help farmers and other interested parties assess and optimise fish welfare. Promoting and illustrating welfare-friendly production practices are fundamental aspects of the project, says Chris.
The plan is to have this work completed by the end of the year.
– This will provide the industry with scientifically sound yet at the same time practical indicators that are both species and life-stage-specific. The indicators must also be comprehensible to other people, not only those who work in the industry, says Kjell Maroni, Chief Adviser of the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF), which has funded research project.
The scientists involved in the project will also be closely cooperating with FHF’s research programme on cleaner fish welfare (such as the project RENSVEL) and earlier work done by the by the project partners on operational welfare indicators.
FISHWELL goals and objectives
- update our fish welfare state-of-the-art in relation to species and life stage (WP1). WPL Jonatan Nilsson (Institute of Marine Research)
- evaluate existing welfare assurance schemes for Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout (WP2). WPL Lars H. Stien (Institute of Marine Research)
- from the suite of Welfare Indicators (WIs) available, assess which are operational and fit for purpose (WP3). WPL Martin H. Iversen (Nord University)
- investigate fit for purpose Operational Welfare Indicators (OWIs) in relation to different existing and emerging production systems (WP4) WPL Jelena Kolarevic (Nofima)
- investigate fit for purpose OWIs in relation to different husbandry routines and operations (WP5) WPL Stine Gismervik (Norwegian Veterinary Institute)
- identify knowledge bottlenecks and highlight these as areas requiring further research/validation (WPs 1-5)
- collate an operational handbook that farmers can use to assess, ensure or optimise the welfare of salmon and trout (WP6). WPL Chris Noble (Nofima)