Fish Welfare Guidelines promise higher welfare for millions of fish


Fish Welfare Guidelines promise higher welfare for millions of fish

24 June 2020
Eurogroup for Animals
The EU Platform on Animal Welfare has today published best practice guidelines on water quality and handling for the welfare of farmed fish. The landmark guidelines are the first concrete step at the EU level to implement higher welfare standards in fish farms.

Happy fish are healthy fish, yet little has been done so far at EU level to improve the welfare of the fish reared in Europe’s aquaculture establishments. Adopted unanimously by the EU Platform on Animal Welfare, the guidelines were developed by a working group led by Greece (the largest producer of farmed fish in the EU), together with Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and Norway plus participants from civil society groups, the aquaculture sector, and experts in the field.

The guidelines identify common threats in aquaculture, including acute stressors which ‘can lead to injury, pain, distress, and suffering … (and) may bring long lasting effects’ and  chronic stressors which ‘in the long term can impair immune function, growth and reproductive function’. A framework and practical guidance are given for reducing suffering on Europe’s fish farms while sustainably producing a high quality product for consumers.


The adoption of the guidelines by the Platform comes at a particularly fortuitous time as the Commission plans to use such guides as part of their new strategic guidelines for sustainable development of aquaculture in the EU, due for adoption later this year. It is important that the Commission builds on these guidelines to develop comprehensive standards for farming, transport and killing, of farmed fish.

Reineke Hameleers, Chief Executive of Eurogroup for Animals said: “For too long these sensitive and fascinating animals have been Europe’s ‘Cinderella species’, forgotten about and left on the sidelines. However, over 6 billion fish are farmed each year within the EU They are being reared in a diversity of farming systems and unnatural environments, equipment isn’t designed to avoid injury and procedures aren’t designed to minimise suffering from handling.

The link between increased stress levels and higher immunodeficiency is widely recognised. Poor husbandry practices on fish farms lead to higher stress levels and ultimately to poor fish health. Happy fish are healthy fish, and this cannot be ignored any longer.

Our Eurogroup for Animals team is proud to have been able to play our part in the creation of these landmark guidelines, and we would like to thank Greece for taking the lead together with the EU’s other leading aquaculture producing countries. We are encouraged by DG MARE’s plans to build upon them further, and we look forward to working with the Commission to this end.


Doug Waley
Programme Leader Fish Welfare
Tel: +32 2 740 08 95