Addressing the welfare needs of farmed lumpfish: knowledge gaps, challenges and solutions



Garcia de Leaniz C, Gutierrez Rabadan C, Barrento SI, Stringwell R, Howes PN, Whittaker BA, Minett JF, Smith RG, Pooley CL, Overland BJ, Biddiscombe L, Lloyd R, Consuegra S, Maddocks JK & Rey Planellas S (2022) Addressing the welfare needs of farmed lumpfish: knowledge gaps, challenges and solutions. Reviews in Aquaculture, 14 (1), pp. 139-155.

Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus L.) are increasingly being used as cleaner fish to control parasitic sea lice, one of most important threats to salmon farming. However, lumpfish cannot survive feeding solely on sea lice, and their mortality in salmon net-pens can be high, which has welfare, ethical and economic implications. The industry is under increasing pressure to improve the welfare of lumpfish, but little guidance exists on how this can be achieved. We undertook a knowledge gap and prioritization exercise using a Delphi approach with participants from the fish farming sector, animal welfare, academia, and regulators to assess consensus on the main challenges and potential solutions for improving lumpfish welfare. Consensus among participants on the utility of 5 behavioural and 12 physical welfare indicators was high (87-89%), reliable (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.79, 95CI = 0.69-0.92), and independent of participant background. Participants highlighted fin erosion and body damage as the most useful and practical operational welfare indicators, and blood parameters and behavioural indicators as the least practical. Species profiling revealed profound differences between Atlantic salmon and lumpfish in relation to behaviour, habitat preferences, nutritional needs and response to stress, suggesting that applying a common set of welfare standards to both species cohabiting in salmon net-pens may not work well for lumpfish. Our study offers 16 practical solutions for improving the welfare of lumpfish, and illustrates the merits of the Delphi approach for achieving consensus among stakeholders on welfare needs, targeting research where is most needed, and generating workable solutions.

cleaner fish; Delphi expert assessment; Operational Welfare Indicators; Salmon farming; Habitat preferences; Feeding rations

Additional authors: P.T.J. Deacon, B.T. Jennings, A. Deakin, A.I. Moore, D. Phillips, G. Bardera, M.F. Castanheira, M. Scolamacchia, N. Clarke, O. Parker, J. Avizienius, M. Johnstone & M. Pavlidis

Reviews in Aquaculture: Volume 14, Issue 1

FundersEuropean Regional Development Fund and BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Publication date31/01/2022
Publication date online18/07/2021
Date accepted by journal10/06/2021

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Dr Sonia Rey Planellas

Dr Sonia Rey Planellas

Associate Professor, Institute of Aquaculture