Mortality and fish welfare


Ellis T, Berrill I, Lines JA, Turnbull J & Knowles TG (2012) Mortality and fish welfare. Fish Physiology and Biochemistry, 38 (1), pp. 189-199.

Mortality has received insufficient attention as a fish welfare topic. Here, we aim to prompt fish farming stakeholders to discuss fish mortalities in relation to welfare. Mortality in farmed fish populations is due to a variety of biotic and abiotic causes, although it is often difficult to differentiate between underlying and immediate causes of mortality. Most mortality appears to occur during episodes associated with disease outbreaks and critical periods (in development or production). Most causes of mortality can be assumed to be associated with suffering prior to death. As mortality rates in farmed fish populations are suspected to rank amongst the highest in commonly farmed vertebrate species, mortality should be a principal fish welfare issue. Long-term mortality rates can be used as a retrospective welfare performance indicator and short-term mortality rates as an operational welfare indicator. Scrutiny of mortality records and determining causes of death will enable action to be taken to avoid further preventable mortality. The welfare performance of fish farms should only be judged on levels of predictable and preventable mortality. Fish farmers will already be monitoring mortality due to commercial and legal requirements. As profitability in fish farming is directly linked to survival, confronting mortality should ultimately benefit both fish and farmers.

Aquaculture; Fish farming; Welfare; Indicator

Fish Physiology and Biochemistry: Volume 38, Issue 1

Publication date29/02/2012