Fish Welfare

Decades of science on fish's needs is now meeting with high visibility on their welfare in civil society and policy arenas. As recognition for fish improves, light is increasingly shone on the forgotten crustaceans and cephalopods.

Upwards of a billion fish are on farms in the EU at any one time, and many times that number are caught with fishing boats for human consumption. Add to that the number of fish caught to manufacture fish feed for the farmed fish and the number of fish being used and killed without welfare protections is staggering, but still isn't recorded or reported.

The same commercial sectors are producing, catching and importing vast numbers of crustaceans and cephalopods, whose sentience is widely acknowledged but whose needs have received very little attention or exploration. 

Between 2005 and 2009 the Council of Europe adopted detailed standards for fish welfare during farming, the European Food Safety Authority published 13 scientific opinions on fish welfare, and the OIE included chapters on fish welfare during transport, slaughter and emergency killing in its Aquatic Animal Health Code. The years since have seen a broadening and exponential growth of research into fish welfare. The progress on implementable knowledge can be seen in the guidelines adopted in 2020 by the EU Platform on Animal Welfare.

Nonetheless, the welfare of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods remains almost entirely absent from regulatory regimes and from aquaculture certification schemes.

What do we want to achieve? 

  • Fish and crustacean, general and species-specific, provisions in EU animal welfare legislation during farming, transport and slaughter;
  • EU aquaculture policy facilitates the implementation of the latest science;
  • A ban on octopus farming before a sector emerges;
  • Recognition of the contribution that improved fish welfare will make to SDGs;
  • Major aquaculture certification schemes include welfare requirements that make full use of the science.

Staff

Douglas Waley

Senior Fish Welfare Programme Leader

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