Conference Paper (unpublished)

Novel use of qualitative behaviour assessment to monitor welfare in farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

Alternative title QBA fish welfare asssessment


Rey Planellas S & Ellis M (2019) Novel use of qualitative behaviour assessment to monitor welfare in farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). [QBA fish welfare asssessment]., 07.10.2019-10.10.2019.

Fish welfare is an important issue within aquaculture, not only for the health and well-being of stock but also for the sustainability and profitability of farms. To monitor the effect of husbandry procedures or the outcome of research designed to improve welfare, methods to assess fish welfare are required. These methods should be reliable, rapid, economical, easy to apply and preferably not require extensive training or expensive equipment. Experienced fish farmers can look at their stock and just know whether there are welfare issues evident within that tank or pond. They do this intuitively by observing the way fish interact with each other, how they move, how they feed, how they use the environment. It is not necessarily what the animal is doing but how it is doing it, which is often referred to as ‘body language’ or more scientifically as ‘behavioural expression’ (Wemelsfelder et al. 2012). Body language can therefore be used to infer an animal’s physical or physiological state but potentially also its psychological (emotional or affective) state. In doing so this can give us insight into both negative and positive indicators of the welfare status of the animal. Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) is a scientific method for assessing the subjective experience of animals through the expressive qualities of behaviour. QBA is used extensively in the social sciences and is increasingly being applied in animal welfare science, where it bridges the gap between subjective judgements and scientific measurement approaches (Wemelsfelder, 2007). QBA uses a selective list of terms to describe qualitative behavioural expressions (e.g. tense, relaxed, calm, agitated). Observers use this list while viewing live animals or retrospectively using videos and assign a score based on how intensively they felt a particular expressive quality was evident. The scores are then used for statistical analysis. QBA has been validated as a welfare assessment tool for terrestrial animals and has been incorporated into EU Animal Welfare Assessment schemes for pigs, poultry and cattle. However, QBA has not yet been applied to fish, therefore this study seeks to evaluate whether QBA has potential for use as a welfare monitoring tool in fish.

Place of publicationBerlin