Rey S, Treasurer J, Pattillo C & McAdam BJ (2021) Using model selection to choose a size-based condition index that is consistent with operational welfare indicators. Journal of Fish Biology, 99 (3), pp. 782-795. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.14761
Quantitative and qualitative measures of fish health and welfare are essential for management of both wild capture and aquaculture species. These measures include morphometric body condition indices, energetic condition, and aquaculture operational welfare indicators (OWI). Measures vary in ease of measurement (and may require destructive sampling), and it is critical to know how well they correlate with fish health and welfare so appropriate management decisions can be based on them.
Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) is a new farming species that needs non-destructive OWIs to be developed and validated. In this study, we developed a C. lumpus fin damage score. Four different body condition indexes based on individual weight relative to either length-weight relationships, or relative to other fish in its local environment were tested (using model selection) as predictors of individual fin damage.
Results showed severity of fin damage was predicted by small size relative to the other individuals in the tank or cage. Body condition based on length-weight relationship was not found to predict fin damage, indicating that using established indices from fisheries or from other species would not predict welfare risks from fin damage.
Implications are that especially in hatchery conditions grading will improve the condition index, and is expected to mitigate fin damage, but that low weight at length was not of use in predicting fin damage. Model selection to choose between a suite of possible indices proved powerful, and should be considered in other applications where an easily measured index is needed to correlate with other health measures.
aquaculture; fin damage; grading; hatchery; length-weight relationship; welfare
Journal of Fish Biology: Volume 99, Issue 3