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Gilthead seabream

Sparus aurata

Sparus aurata (Gilthead seabream)
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Distribution
Distribution map: Sparus aurata (Gilthead seabream)

least concern



Information


Authors: Jenny Volstorf, Maria Filipa Castanheira
Version: C | 2.0 (2022-12-12)


Reviewers: N/A
Editor: Jenny Volstorf

Initial release: 2016-10-26
Version information:
  • Appearance: C
  • Last major update: 2022-12-12

Cite as: »Volstorf, Jenny, and Maria Filipa Castanheira. 2022. Sparus aurata (WelfareCheck | farm). In: fair-fish database, ed. fair-fish. World Wide Web electronic publication. First published 2016-10-26. Version C | 2.0. https://fair-fish-database.net.«





WelfareScore | farm

Sparus aurata
LiPoCe
Criteria
Home range
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Depth range
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Migration
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Reproduction
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Aggregation
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Aggression
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Substrate
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Stress
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Malformations
score-li
score-po
score-ce
Slaughter
score-li
score-po
score-ce


Legend

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

WelfareScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)

score-legend
High
score-legend
Medium
score-legend
Low
score-legend
Unclear
score-legend
No findings



General remarks

Sparus aurata is a sparid from the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, representing one of the most frequently farmed species in Mediterranean marine finfish aquaculture besides Dicentrarchus labrax. It is mostly cultured in sea cages, to a lesser degree also in tanks, raceways, and ponds. The very low FishEthoScore of Sparus aurata is mainly due to high levels of aggression, needs of substrate, stress under farming conditions, and high levels of deformations. Extensive farming providing substrate could be a remediation for some of the problems and help improve fish welfare. Individual farming strategies with mandatory protocols including continuous monitoring are a major stepping stone towards preventing poor welfare and improving the sustainable production of this species. Further research is needed on current farming conditions as well as home range use and aggregation behaviour in the wild.




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?

There are unclear findings for minimal and high-standard farming conditions, as the natural home range is either partially or completely unknown for all age classes. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence, as the distance moved in the wild comes from one paper only.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILDno data found yet.
  • FARM  tanks: usually 3-6 m ∅ 1 2, 5 m ∅ 3, 6-8 m3 4, weaning tanks: 15-20 m3, sometimes 130 m3 4; ponds: 100s-1,000s m3 5.
  • LAB: does not apply.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: one or more coastal lagoons or estuaries 6. Lagoons: generally <700 m 7. Further research needed on home range at sea.
  • FARM: sea cages (net pens): 700 m2 (20 x 35 m) 8, 9 m ∅ 9, 30-50 m ∅ 4; tanks: 3-6 m ∅ 10; raceways: 5-20 m2 (5-10 x 1-2 m) 10; earthen ponds: 80-2,000 m2 (20-100 x 4-20 m) 4.
  • LAB: does not apply.

ADULTS:

  • WILD JUVENILES.
  • FARM:  JUVENILES.
  • LAB: does not apply.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILDno data found yet.
  • FARM: long-term holding 11; spawning tanks: usually 256 m2 (16 x 16 m) 1; PVC tanks: 10-20 m3 4.
  • LAB: does not apply. ​



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 farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions, as the range in captivity at least overlaps with the range in the wild. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: usually 1.5-2 m 1 2, 1.5-2.5 m 5 3; ponds: 2-5 m 5.
  • LAB: does not apply.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: 0-5 m 12 13 14 15 16 17 6 18 19, also <30 m 20 21 22, seldomly <150 m 20.
  • FARM: sea cages: 14.6 m 8, at 30 m water depth 4; tanks and raceways: usually 1-1.5 m 10; earthen ponds: 1-3 m 4.
  • LAB: does not apply.

ADULTS:

  • WILD JUVENILES.
  • FARM JUVENILES.
  • LAB: does not apply.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: tanks: ≤1.5 m 23.
  • LAB: does not apply.



3  Migration

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 low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions, as the species undertakes extensive migrations, and we cannot be sure that providing each age class with their respective environmental conditions will satisfy their urge to migrate or whether they need to experience the transition. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

AMPHIDROMOUS 13 6. EURYHALINE 13 6.

Eggs: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: hatch in the sea, move to coastal lagoons or estuaries for nursery grounds 6. Based on distribution ( D1, D2), estimated 6-18 h PHOTOPERIOD, seawater.
  • FARM: tanks: 12 h PHOTOPERIOD 2, 18-22 °C, 30‰ 4 2; ponds: >18 h PHOTOPERIOD, 15-21 °C, water from sea, lagoon or littoral well 5. For details of holding systems  W1 and W2.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: remain in lagoons or estuaries most of the year 24 14 25 16 6, site fidelity in lagoon 7. Leave for the sea in winter 6. Use of several lagoons (<40 km apart) between visits to the sea 6. Based on distribution ( D1, D2), estimated 6-18 h PHOTOPERIOD, seawater.
  • FARM: tanks: 11 °C, seawater (38‰) 26; earthen ponds: groundwater 4. Sea cages: stressed by 26 °C compared to 12.5 or 22 °C 9. For details of holding systems  W1 and W2.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

ADULTS:

  • WILD JUVENILES.
  • FARM: site fidelity 27. Tanks: 11 °C, seawater (38‰) 26; earthen ponds: groundwater 4. Sea cages: stressed by 26 °C compared to 12.5 or 22 °C 9. For details of holding systems  W1 and W2.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: spawn at sea 6.
  • FARM: for details of holding systems  W1 and W2.
  • LAB: no data found yet.



4  Reproduction

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 of theses circumstances?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions, as natural spawning is possible, but omitting of manipulation needs to be verified for the farming context. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence, as knowledge is missing about courtship and whether the species is allowed to perform it as well as whether stripping is applied.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY: does not apply.

JUVENILES: does not apply.

ADULTS: does not apply.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: spawn in first or second year 28 14 29 17 30 in October-February 20 28 14 29.
  • FARMIND from the wild may be added to the captive breeder population 4. Sex ratio: when in small groups with males, females fluctuated less in number of eggs than single females, and more eggs were fertilised by the males 31. Tanks: PHOTOPERIOD and temperature manipulation to achieve off-season spawning 23 10 that goes beyond shifting of natural cycle 4. Usually no hormonal manipulation 4.
  • LAB: protandric hermaphrodite: develop into males at 2-3 years, then into females 32.



5  Aggregation

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 unclear for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARMLARVAE: tanks: usually 80-100 IND/L 4, sometimes 150-200 IND/L 5, 2-8 IND/L in mesocosms (between extensive and intensive systems) 5, school in mesocosm 3; ponds: 0.1-1 IND/L 5. FRY: weaning tanks: 15-20 IND/L, later 4,000-5,000 IND/m3, sometimes 2-3-fold the density 4.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: probably in schools 7 33 34.
  • FARM: sea cages: 3 kg/m3 35, 12 kg/m3 9, 7-15 kg/m3 4; earthen ponds: 2.5-4 kg/m3 4; tanks: 30 kg/m3 26. Tanks: equal growth and cortisol levels at 3 kg/m3 (final 15 kg/m3) and 11 kg/m3 (final 65 kg/m3), schooling only at high density 36.
  • LAB: tanks: stressed by 22 kg/m3 compared to 7 kg/m3 37, stressed by 10.6 kg/m3 (final 40.8 kg/m3) compared to 2.6 kg/m3 (final 10.0 kg/m3) 38, higher growth at 15 kg/m3 than 30 kg/m3 39.

ADULTS:

  • WILD: probably in schools 7 33 34, larger IND probably more isolated 7.
  • FARM: sea cages: 3 kg/m3 35, 12 kg/m3 9, 7-15 kg/m3 4; earthen ponds: 2.5-4 kg/m3 4; tanks: 30 kg/m3 26.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: PVC tanks: 8-12 kg/m3 4.
  • LAB: no data found yet.



6  Aggression

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, as aggression is present in all age classes, and it is not clear whether size grading and more predictable food dispersal will decrease it. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: in mixed-size populations, larger FRY aggressive and cannibalistic towards smaller FRY, indicating the need for size grading 40. Aggressive including fin nipping which could be a precursor for cannibalism at 35-49 days 3.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: cages: swam with frequent turns including collisions probably due to unpredictability of where the food will be 35.
  • LAB: aggressive 41 in pairwise interactions 42 43. Food competition in groups of 4 44, 2, 5 or 10 45 and 15, which could not be decreased by dispersed food distribution 46. Higher frequency of sharp-angeled swimming turns and higher density under the feeder during feeding than before or after, but little aggression 47, where absence of aggression might be due to higher density than in other food competition studies 46. For aggression and substrate  W3.

ADULTS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: JUVENILES.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: aggressive in groups of 2 and 4 48.



7  Substrate

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, as cages without substrate prevail. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions, as innovations for enrichment need to be verified for the farming context. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: for details of holding systems W1 and W2.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: found on bottoms with sand and mud 49 15 7 50 18 19, rocks and stones 22 or seagrass 12 51.
  • FARM: LARVAE and FRY.
  • LAB: cages: enrichment with plant-fibre ropes decreased aggression and interaction with net and increased fin condition and use of inner part of cage 41. Glass tanks: increased growth and decreased aggression when provided with substrate – especially of blue colour – than without 52 53 54, also probably decreased stress 55 54. Glass tanks: older IND preferred blue-coloured substrate over red-brown or no substrate, not so strong preference in younger IND 56. Tanks: enrichment with plant-fibre ropes was positive challenge increasing spatial cognition, exploration in maze task, and consequently welfare 57.

ADULTS:

  • WILD: found on bottoms with sand and mud 49 15 7 50 18 19, rocks and stones 22 or seagrass 12 51. Might bury themselves in sand during night 7.
  • FARM: LARVAE and FRY.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: no data found yet.



8  Stress

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 farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions, as innovations to reduce stress need to be verified for the focus species or for the farming context. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: tanks: stressed (to the point of mortality) by handling 58 59 which could be decreased by feeding rotifers enriched with arachidonic acid before handling 58. Tanks: monitoring swim bladder inflation by ultrasound was highly precise and is potentially less stressful than capture-dependent sampling, as it is non-intrusive 2.
  • LAB: tanks: stressed by air exposure and sudden salinity drop, although stress decreased with feeding Artemia enriched with arachidonic acid before stressor 60.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: sea cages: stressed by crowding 9. For the other highly-farmed Mediterranean finfish Dicentrarchus labrax, monitoring by horizontal hydroacoustics outside the cage was highly precise and is less labour intensive than vertical hydroacoustics and potentially less stressful than vertical hydroacoustics and capture-dependent sampling, as it is non-intrusive 61. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to S. aurata as well. Tanks: stressed by confinement 62, crowding 26, handling 62.
  • LAB: tanks: stressed by air exposure 63, confinement 63 64 54 which was not decreased by adding blue substrate 54. For substrate and stress in seemingly unstressed IND  W3, for stress and aggregation  W4. Tanks: playing offshore aquaculture sounds increased growth and decreased stress compared to onshore aquaculture sounds and control group 65.

ADULTS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: sea cages: stressed by crowding 9; tanks: stressed by confinement 66, crowding 26.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: no data found yet.



9  Malformations

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 farming conditions, as malformation rates exceed 10%. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions, as some malformations result from conditions that may be changed (rearing intensity, forced swimming, inheritance, handling). Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence, as improvement of the situation by adjusting conditions needs more proof.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

LARVAE and FRY:

  • WILD: malformations in 31.9%, of which severe in 4.2% 67.
  • FARM: body deformations (large head, compressed body, lordosis, kyphosis,  kypholordosis, disoriented rays, frayed gills, notch in opercular cover, tumour in swim bladder) in 5.4%, mild kypholordosis in another 2.4% 68. 27% of LARVAE born with serious anomalies like axial deviations (e.g., lordosis), operculum atrophies or cranial abnormalities, probably due to missing natural selection in aquaculture environment 69. Opercular complex deformity in 15.6-16.7% 70. Malformations in 98.3-100%, of which severe in 47.9-100%, where frequency increased with increasing rearing intensity from semi-intensive (in 47.9-54.5%) to intensive culture (in 69.2-100%) 67. Lordosis in 5.6%, lacking operculum in 7.9% 71.
  • LAB: lordosis in 20-30%, which coincided with non-inflated swim bladder 72; under forced swimming, lordosis in 90% 72.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: no incomplete lateral line or lateral line scales missing or dorsoventral curvature or waving or zig-zag pattern of the lateral line 73. Lateral line deformities in 43%, probably due to accidents, e.g., by crowding under sea cages for feeding 74.
  • FARM:  deformities of operculum in 5.8%, probably due to inheritance 75. Lordosis in 5.7%, lordosis-scoliosis-kyphosis in 6%, of which the latter probably due to inheritance and more easily detectable at early age than other deformities 75. Higher column deformity in sorted compared to unsorted IND indicates ineffectiveness of sorting 75. Malformations of lateral line in 71-86.2% 73, in 72% 74, of which part was probably due to handling, rough surface of tank/cage, fights 74.
  • LAB: lordosis in 45.2% 76.

ADULTS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: 39 types of deformations: 17 affecting spinal column (lordosis, vertebral fusion), maxilar, operculum, jaw, and dorsal fin, 22 being different combinations of at least two of the above in 10%, where triple column abnormality (lordosis-scoliosis-kyphosis) may be due to inheritance 77. Deformities of operculum in 5.8%, probably due to inheritance 75. Lordosis in 5.7%, lordosis-scoliosis-kyphosis in 6%, of which the latter probably due to inheritance and more easily detectable at early age than other deformities 75. Higher column deformity in sorted compared to unsorted IND indicates ineffectiveness of sorting 75.
  • LAB: JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: no data found yet.
  • FARM: no data found yet.
  • LAB: no data found yet.



10  Slaughter

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?

It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions, as a) percussive stunning followed by bleeding or b) spiking followed by ice slurry induce unconsciousness fast, kill while still unconscious, and are verified for the farming context. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.

Likelihoodscore-li
Potentialscore-po
Certaintyscore-ce

Eggs: does not apply.

LARVAE and FRY: does not apply.

JUVENILES:

  • WILD: does not apply.
  • FARM: common slaughter method: chilled water 26 or ice-water slurry 78 1, so probably hypothermia. High-standard slaughter method: percussive stunning followed by bleeding 79. Spiking (after catching by hook and line) was faster than electro stunning followed by ice slurry (after pumping into the stunner) and immersion in ice slurry (after being brailed), but all were equally stressful 9. Electrical stunning followed by chilling in ice water 78 or ice slurry including nanoencapsulated clove oil 80 probably induce unconsciousness fast and prevent recovery. Further research needed to confirm for farming conditions.
  • LAB: percussive and electrical stunning followed by gutting were fastest and most effective to induce unconsciousness, but only percussive stunning maintained meat quality 81. Gas mixture followed by ice slurry was faster (1.5 versus 52 min) and less stressful than ice slurry alone without changing meat quality 82.

ADULTS:

  • WILD: does not apply.
  • FARM JUVENILES.
  • LAB: no data found yet.

SPAWNERS:

  • WILD: does not apply.
  • FARM JUVENILES.
  • LAB: no data found yet.



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 83 84, fully domesticated. Cultured since 1980 11.




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 20 24 85 13.
  • FARMFRY: tanks: live feed Brachionus plicatilis and Artemia 5; ponds: no exogenous feed, zooplankton bloom 5. Fish oil in early weaning diets may be completely replaced by sustainable sources 86. JUVENILES: fish meal may be not 87 or partly* 88 89 or completely* 90 replaced by sustainable sources with concurrent increase in fish oil or partly* replaced without increase in fish oil 91, fish oil may be completely* replaced by sustainable sources 92. SPAWNERS: fish oil may be mostly* replaced by sustainable sources 93.
  • LABJUVENILES: fish meal may be mostly* replaced by sustainable sources or non-forage fishery components 94, fish oil may be completely* replaced by a mixture of sustainable sources and non-forage fishery components 86.

* partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%




Glossary


ADULTS = mature individuals, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
AMPHIDROMOUS = migrating between fresh water and sea independent of spawning
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 = selective breeding programmes are used focusing on specific goals 83
EURYHALINE = tolerant of a wide range of salinities
FARM = setting in farming environment or under conditions simulating farming environment in terms of size of facility or number of individuals
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
PHOTOPERIOD = duration of daylight
SPAWNERS = adults during the spawning season; in farms: adults that are kept as broodstock
WILD = setting in the wild



Bibliography


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