At the first meeting of the EU Animal Welfare Platform’s subgroup on fish, participants agreed to develop general guidance on the handling of fish and on water quality and then to go on to consolidate existing knowledge into species specific recommendations in each area.
There is an increasing focus on the welfare of fish in society, in policy circles, and in the aquaculture community. Fish are more vulnerable to their environment than terrestrial animals, and their immune systems function very poorly under stress. Disease and mass mortalities are a common threat to farmed fish.
Aquaculture is a rapidly evolving sector and, with far fewer vaccinations and medications available than for terrestrially farmed animals, is at a turning point where it can choose higher welfare production rather than compensating for poor welfare with medication. Humane slaughter systems are commercially available and while used across the salmon sector, the proven quality and economic gains haven’t been enough to drive wider adoption.
The inaugural meeting of the EU Animal Welfare Platform’s subgroup on the welfare of fish was held in the offices of Eurogroup for Animals on 25th September. The subgroup consists of five Member States (EL, ES, IT, DE, DK) plus Norway, two independent experts, together with the following professional bodies and interest groups; Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE), European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders (EFFAB), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Animals Angels, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Compassion in World Farming, and Eurogroup for Animals.
The subgroup was initiated by the Greek Ministry of Agriculture. Greece is the EU’s largest producer of sea bass and sea bream, their export being an important contributor to the country’s economy.
Doug Waley, Fish Welfare – Programme Leader
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