Version: B | 1.1 (2022-07-20)
Condensed assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for good fish welfare in aquaculture, based on ethological findings for 10 crucial criteria.
Li = Likelihood that the individuals of the species experience good welfare under minimal farming conditions
Po = Potential of the individuals of the species to experience good welfare under high-standard farming conditions
Ce = Certainty of our findings in Likelihood and Potential
FishEthoScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)
Morone saxatilis is a very popular species in North America, especially regarding recreational fisheries. Due to the decline of wild stocks, some effort was invested in farming this fish both for re-stocking and commercial purposes. However, there is a lack of knowledge in many aspects of its biology, especially regarding common aquaculture stressors such as handling, aggression, incidence of malformations, and humane slaughter protocols. Most of the information available is old and yet suggest that the welfare state of this species is poor, especially concerning spatial needs and induced spawning practices. Furthermore, this species is currently being hybridised with other Moronids, which raises welfare issues because of the lack of knowledge on the effects of such practices. The welfare of M. saxatilis may be improved if production is focused on freshwater populations, uses appropriate densities, develops solutions towards the use of substrate, and implements humane slaughter procedures.
1 Home range
Many species traverse in a limited horizontal space (even if just for a certain period of time per year); the home range may be described as a species' understanding of its environment (i.e., its cognitive map) for the most important resources it needs access to. What is the probability of providing the species' whole home range in captivity?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
ADULTS: ➝ JUVENILES.
2 Depth range
Given the availability of resources (food, shelter) or the need to avoid predators, species spend their time within a certain depth range. What is the probability of providing the species' whole depth range in captivity?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
Some species undergo seasonal changes of environments for different purposes (feeding, spawning, etc.) and with them, environmental parameters (photoperiod, temperature, salinity) may change, too. What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the migrating or habitat-changing behaviour of the species?It is high for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
Some populations ANADROMOUS, others landlocked 10.
LARVAE: WILD: perform vertical migrations 10 and downstream movements 13, but some populations remain in fresh water 14. FARM: reared in brackish water 15 16. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
JUVENILES: WILD: some populations in fresh water, others in brackish water and others in saltwater 10 17 18. FARM: may be reared in fresh, brackish or saltwater 19 20 15 16. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
ADULTS: ➝ JUVENILES.
A species reproduces at a certain age, season, and sex ratio and possibly involving courtship rituals. What is the probability of the species reproducing naturally in captivity without manipulation?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
WILD: pre-spawning behaviour of both sexes involves staging within the lower and middle parts of estuaries. Males and females move in synchrony from the staging area to the spawning grounds, which they occupy during 1-2 weeks for females and longer for males. Increase in temperature triggers spawning movements 26. Spawning occurs near the head of tide and at the surface of the water. The spawning act is obvious and can vary from a gentle swirling motion of several fish to an aggressive behaviour that splashes water high into the air. The eggs and milt are broadcast simultaneously by the females and males respectively, and fertilisation occurs in the water column 27.
FARM: in many cases, males and females are kept separately, stripped upon hormonal injections and fertilisation is performed manually 28 29 30 31. When kept in spawning tanks, ratio is 1 female : 2 males 28. Spawning can also occur spontaneously in tanks, although relying on GnRH injected males and females 28. Less invasive techniques to assess sex and maturation are available 32.
LAB: courtship behaviour (leading, following, aggregating in pack) started 15 h before spawning. Male courted female with side-to-side or face-to-face contact and shimmying. Encircled and pushed against female when she released eggs 33.
Species differ in the way they co-exist with conspecifics or other species from being solitary to aggregating unstructured, casually roaming in shoals or closely coordinating in schools of varying densities. What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the aggregation behaviour of the species?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE: WILD: <600 IND/m3 34. FARM: ponds: 125,000-1,500,000 IND/ha in early stages 35 36, 10,000-250,000 IND/ha in late stages, but densities in the range of 25,000-60,000 IND/ha resulted in more uniform fish and better overall survival 37.
JUVENILES: WILD: form large schools 38, numbers and densities not available. FARM: ponds: 5,600 and 6,600 kg/ha, corresponding to approximately 8,600 IND/ha at harvest 39; intensive ponds: 7,500 kg/ha 37; raceways: 43.2 kg/m3 37.
ADULTS: ➝ JUVENILES.
SPAWNERS: WILD: form spawning aggregations 10. FARM: no data found yet.
There is a range of adverse reactions in species, spanning from being relatively indifferent towards others to defending valuable resources (e.g., food, territory, mates) to actively attacking opponents. What is the probability of the species being non-aggressive and non-territorial in captivity?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.
LARVAE: cannibalism in intensive systems 40.
JUVENILES: no data found yet.
ADULTS: no data found yet.
SPAWNERS: no data found yet.
Depending on where in the water column the species lives, it differs in interacting with or relying on various substrates for feeding or covering purposes (e.g., plants, rocks and stones, sand and mud). What is the probability of providing the species' substrate and shelter needs in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
ADULTS: WILD: when inshore, may be found in a variety of environments: sand, gravel, rock 10. FARM: ➝ JUVENILES.
SPAWNERS: WILD: pelagic spawning (➝ crit. 4). FARM: tanks 9.
Farming involves subjecting the species to diverse procedures (e.g., handling, air exposure, short-term confinement, short-term crowding, transport), sudden parameter changes or repeated disturbances (e.g., husbandry, size-grading). What is the probability of the species not being stressed?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.
Eggs and LARVAE: WILD and FARM: no data found yet.
ADULTS: WILD: no data found yet. FARM: ➝ JUVENILES.
SPAWNERS: WILD: for stress and temperature ➝ crit. 3. FARM: for stress and sex assessment ➝ crit. 4.
Deformities that – in contrast to diseases – are commonly irreversible may indicate sub-optimal rearing conditions (e.g., mechanical stress during hatching and rearing, environmental factors unless mentioned in crit. 3, aquatic pollutants, nutritional deficiencies) or a general incompatibility of the species with being farmed. What is the probability of the species being malformed rarely?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.
LARVAE: WILD: high mortalities 44 45, sensitive to temperature 27. FARM: high mortalities 46 with survival after 20 days varying between 0.03% and 11% 47. Swimbladder inflation is a critical event 48 49.
JUVENILES: WILD: pugheadness, blindness, harelippedness, scoliosis, crossbite, lordosis, and fin deformations 50. FARM: no data found yet.
ADULTS: WILD: ➝ JUVENILES. FARM: no data found yet.
The cornerstone for a humane treatment is that slaughter a) immediately follows stunning (i.e., while the individual is unconscious), b) happens according to a clear and reproducible set of instructions verified under farming conditions, and c) avoids pain, suffering, and distress. What is the probability of the species being slaughtered according to a humane slaughter protocol?There are no findings for minimal and high-standard farming conditions.
Side note: Domestication
Teletchea and Fontaine introduced 5 domestication levels illustrating how far species are from having their life cycle closed in captivity without wild input, how long they have been reared in captivity, and whether breeding programmes are in place. What is the species’ domestication level?
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 51, fully domesticated.
Side note: Forage fish in the feed
450-1,000 milliard wild-caught fishes end up being processed into fish meal and fish oil each year which contributes to overfishing and represents enormous suffering. There is a broad range of feeding types within species reared in captivity. To what degree may fish meal and fish oil based on forage fish be replaced by non-forage fishery components (e.g., poultry blood meal) or sustainable sources (e.g., soybean cake)?
All age classes: WILD: carnivorous 52 53. FARM: fish meal may be completely* replaced by plant-based diets, although requiring feeding stimulants 54 55 54, but no data found yet on replacement of fish oil and replacement in FRY and ADULTS.
*partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%
ANADROMOUS = migrating from the sea into fresh water to spawn
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 = selective breeding programmes are used focusing on specific goals 51
FARM = setting in farming environment or under conditions simulating farming environment in terms of size of facility or number of individuals
FINGERLINGS = early juveniles with fully developed scales and working fins, the size of a human finger; for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogentic development
FRY = larvae from external feeding on, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
IND = individuals
JUVENILES = fully developed but immature individuals, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
LAB = setting in laboratory environment
LARVAE = hatching to mouth opening, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
PELAGIC = living independent of bottom and shore of a body of water
PLANKTONIC = horizontal movement limited to hydrodynamic displacement
SPAWNERS = adults during the spawning season; in farms: adults that are kept as broodstock
WILD = setting in the wild
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