The Aquaculture Advisory Council Working Group on Finfish Matters seeks an external consultant to use knowledge of the behaviour and ethology of farmed fish to improve fish welfare and production. This study will serve as a basis to provide advice to the European Commission, to the Member States and to European aquaculture stakeholders.

Background

Animal welfare is of increasing importance in European and national political agendas. The European Green Deal and its Farm to fork strategy establish bold objectives on animals’ welfare, including farmed fish, in Europe for the forthcoming years. The new Strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture for the period 2021 to 2030 highlight the importance of paying more attention to the welfare of fish, with action points to develop good practices, to develop validated species-specific indicators, to further research and to provide knowledge and skills for all who work in the field.

Animal welfare, including that of fish, includes behavioural aspects related to both the physical and mental states of the fish. These interact with each other impacting both on overall welfare and production. Fish inherit strong species-specific motivations arising from their genetic make-up which cause them to make behavioural choices. These will include when to feed, rest and reproduce; whether to show territorial or shoaling behaviour; when and where to hide or escape; whether to be able to play (if indeed they wish to); whether and/or when to migrate or to move to waters with different physical characteristics such as temperature or levels of oxygen or various pollutants.

Aquaculture producers use behavioural indicators, formally or informally, to check on their fish. Further research and training can enhance this process. Understanding fish ethology and behaviour may enable aquaculture producers to design environments which meet the species-specific behavioural needs of their fish, to the benefit of both welfare and production.

 

Objectives and output

This study aims to provide insight and advice to the European Commission, to the Member States and to European aquaculture stakeholders, on how a greater knowledge of fish behaviour and ethology can benefit fish welfare and production in aquaculture.

This work will therefore analyse and deliver on the following issues:

  1. Review of scientific literature on the wild ethology and behavioural needs of key fish species farmed in the EU, concentrating on European seabass, Gilthead seabream, Rainbow trout, Common carp and Atlantic salmon. Review of scientific literature, including reviews such as those found on Fishethobase, on species specific behaviours associated with positive outcomes and with negative outcomes. Include a discussion of any changes which may have occurred due to domestication.
  2. To ensure that practical knowledge is combined with the results of the published literature, to survey the knowledge and opinions of AAC members, their contacts and other practitioners arising from their personal experience of the ethology and behavioural needs of fish. This could take the form of a written or online survey and/or be based on an online group conversation.
  3. Best aquaculture practices, towards meeting ethological requirements including the development of environmental resources and enrichments, illustrated with some case studies. The focus should be on generic recommendations, rather than detailed species-specifics, with the proviso that certain practices will be appropriate for some species and not all. Special attention should be given to measures that are easy to implement at farm level; also to measures that provides win-win situations for both fish and farmer.
  4. Behavioural indicators for reliably assessing welfare and improving production.
  5. Priorities for research.
  6. Priorities for funding improvements in behavioural welfare.
  7. Recommendations.
  8. References.

The contractors are strongly encouraged to exchange ideas with those selected to prepare the report of farmed fish welfare for the EU Parliament to avoid duplication of effort.

This work will also contribute to the action proposed in the Strategic guidelines for the AAC, listed in the Annex under point 2.1.3.: Animal welfare.

 

Organisation

This work will be commissioned by the AAC to an external expert/organisation. The expert/organisation will report directly to the Fish Welfare Focus Group and to Working Group 1 of the Aquaculture Advisory Council. The expert/organisation must have a multi- disciplinary background, ideally with experience in fish welfare and health in aquaculture in marine and freshwater environment and, with an insight into EU aquaculture. 

 

Deliverables and timeline

1 August 2022: Beginning of the project.

1September 2022: Draft report sent to Focus Group and meeting with the Focus Group

15 September 2022: Consolidated draft report sent to Working Group

5 October 2022: Draft report presented at the Working Group meeting

 

Budget

The budget for this work is EUR 12,000 including VAT.

 

If interested, please send your CV and a list of publications on the topic in English to the AAC Secretariat by the 30 June 2022: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.