Helping farmers improve fish welfare

March 4, 2012 - 07:20

How can injuries and deformities in farmed fish be reduced? Scientists aim to improve practical and state-of-the-art knowledge on this matter.

Bjørn-Steinar Sæther, Ronny Jakobsen and Chris Noble in action, looking for injuries on farmed cod. (Photo: Tor Evensen, Nofima)

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 Chris Noble, senior scientist at The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (Nofima).

Researchers, producers and consumers are increasingly interested in fish welfare, and this has led to numerous 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 these practices are increasingly rewarded in the market place, such as gaining additional price premiums.

User-friendly solutions

As part of an EU COST initiative on fish welfare, four scientists from Nofima teamed up with partners in Canada, the UK, Australia and Spain to sum up how producers can eliminate or combat factors that lead to injuries and deformities in farmed fish.

Scientists can now give recommendations on how fish farming industries can improve daily husbandry practices to minimise damage to their fish (Photo: Tor Evensen, Nofima)

The result is a review paper which collates the latest findings and provides producers with state-of-the-art knowledge on the subject, bringing together research from over 175 scientific publications.

The paper provides producers with operational solutions a range of farmed species through the production cycle.

The aim is to help farmers identify risk factors for injury during the production cycle and also to highlight any practices that could reduce or mitigate these risks.

The scientists focused on external injuries to the mouth, eye, epidermis and fins. They also covered topics such as feed management, nutrition, handling and live transport.

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

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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 i) how demand feeding and ii) feeding time affects fish welfare and iii) a review on the range of behavioural welfare indicators that can be used in aquaculture.

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.

Nofima is a business oriented research institute working in research and development for the aquaculture, fisheries and food industry in Norway. Read more

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