Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


FASTFISH — Result In Brief

Project ID: 22720
Funded under: FP6-POLICIES
Country: Norway

Stress busting for farmed fish

Stress causes problems in all living systems and fish are no exception. To maximise welfare and aquaculture profits, current research is finding out exactly what parameters can be used to decide if farmed fish are under stress.
Stress busting for farmed fish
For a modern, sustainable and competitive aquaculture system that complies with acceptable standards of animal welfare, it is crucial that fish stress levels are not surpassed. Stress hormones can negatively affect flesh quality as well as cause apathy and lower feeding rates so overall yield is reduced.

To gauge exactly how a fish farmer can determine that the fish are approaching a pre-critical level of stress, there has to be a set of behavioural indicators linked to measurable environmental parameters. The 'On farm assessment of stress level in fish' (Fastfish) project aimed to provide a protocol by which managers and farmers could monitor pre-critical stress levels in populations of farmed fish.

The Fastfish team compared Atlantic salmon and sea bass in an intensive system and a mesocosm environment that mimics natural conditions as closely as possible. Evaluating the differences between behaviour in the two systems, producers can draw up recommendations so conditions measure up to EU-recommended animal welfare standards.

For accurate recording and dissemination of fish farm data on a daily basis, Fastfish developed a web application and database system, Fasttool. Modifications throughout the project for a necessary hike in user friendliness resulted in a new application, Welfaremeter. Based on a software analysis of the transmitted data, Welfaremeter evaluates the environmental conditions in each case and calculates a relevant welfare index.

The system has been tested in pilot and commercial-scale sea farms. Application has helped to understand links between fish behaviour and potential technology improvement that can increase its applicability for animal welfare purposes. For the future, refinements to the Web-based database must be implemented so the system can operate at an industrial level.

Probably the most important result from Fastfish research was the identification of a reliable stress parameter. Physiologically, hyper consumption of oxygen can be used as an easy-to-apply indicator of stress as it is a mirror of deviations in food metabolism and active metabolism.

Fastfish also recommended that training has to be given to farmers so they can derive the benefits from assessment of stress levels in fish. Acute stress can be caused by handling so changes of this nature must be reduced to an absolute minimum.

Results from the Fastfish project have helped to create a general framework that can be used to monitor stress and fish welfare on farms. Maximum productivity in aquaculture can be achieved without compromise in the area of animal welfare.

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