For us, behaviour is the most important indicator of the welfare state of an individual. By describing the behaviour of aquatic animals in the wild and in captivity, we aim to assess the species’ potential on the welfare continuum.
Because we rely on scientific sources, this gives us the reliable, valid, and objective basis for recommendations on how to avoid harm and how to improve welfare.
The goal is to bridge the gap between science and the stakeholders in the aquaculture and fisheries sector: producers, fishing people, certifiers, retailers, NGOs, policy makers, and consumers.
In our definition of welfare, we follow Broom (1986): “The welfare of an individual is its state as regards its attempts to cope with its environment.” Thus, welfare may be perceived as a continuum on which an individual rates “good” or “bad” or everything in between.
In our understanding, good fish welfare is guaranteed if a fish may live up to the potential of the species and develop its individuality. Or, in the words of the Swiss Animal Welfare Law, if the dignity of the animal, i.e., its intrinsic value, is respected. If the farmer lets the fishes live up to their species’ potential and develop their individuality, allowing space also for positive experiences including playing, the farmer is automatically minimising pain, suffering, and stress. If, on the other hand, the farmer concentrates all efforts on reducing pain, suffering, and stress of the fishes, they will not necessarily live up to their potential.
We pursue what could be called a combination of a function-based, feelings-based, and nature-based approach to welfare,
- valuing not only the freedom from injuries and stress (function-based approach) but
- supporting attempts to provide rewarding experiences and cognitive challenges (feelings-based approach) as well as
- arguing for enclosures that mimic the wild habitat as best as possible and allow for natural behaviour (nature-based approach).
In the fair-fish database, when you have chosen a species, the landing page is an Overview, introducing the most important information to know about the species that we have come across during our literatures search, including common names, images, distribution, habitat and growth characteristics, swimming aspects, reproduction, social behaviour but also handling details. To dive deeper, visit the Dossier where we collect all available ethological findings (and more) on the most important aspects during the life course, both biologically and concerning the habitat. In contrast to the Overview, we present the findings in more detail citing the scientific references.
Depending on whether the species is farmed or wild caught, you will be interested in different branches of the database.
Founded in 2013, the farm branch of the fair-fish database focuses on farmed aquatic species.
Founded in 2022, the catch branch of the fair-fish database focuses on wild-caught aquatic species.
The heart of the farm branch of the fair-fish database is the welfare assessment – or WelfareCheck | farm – resulting in the WelfareScore | farm for each species. The WelfareCheck | farm is a condensed assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for good welfare in aquaculture, based on welfare-related findings for 10 crucial criteria.
For those species with a Dossier, we conclude to-be-preferred farming conditions in the Advice | farm. They are not meant to be as detailed as a rearing manual but instead, challenge current farming standards and often take the form of what not to do.
In parallel to farm, the main element of the catch branch of the fair-fish database is the welfare assessment – or WelfareCheck | catch – with the WelfareScore | catch for each species caught with a specific catching method. The WelfareCheck | catch, too, is a condensed assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for good welfare – or better yet avoidance of decrease of good welfare – this time in fisheries. We base this on findings on welfare hazards in 10 steps along the catching process.
In contrast to the farm profiles, in the catch branch we assess the welfare separately for each method that the focus species is caught with. In the case of a species exclusively caught with one method, there will be one WelfareCheck, whereas in other species, there will be as many WelfareChecks as there are methods to catch the species with.
Summarising our findings of all WelfareChecks | catch for one species in Advice | catch, we conclude which catching method is the least welfare threatening for this species and which changes to the gear or the catching process will potentially result in improvements of welfare.
Volstorf, Jenny, Caroline Marques Maia, María J. Cabrera-Álvarez, and Sebastian Scholz (2023). Welfare Assessment of Aquatic Species in Fisheries . Poster for the conference "Catch Welfare Platform" , 20.-22.11.2023 in Bergen/Norway.
Saraiva, João L., Jenny Volstorf, María J. Cabrera-Álvarez, and Pablo Arechavala-Lopez (2022). Using ethology to improve farmed fish welfare and production . Report produced for the AAC. 67 pp + annexes
Studer, Billo Heinzpeter (2020). Farmed fishes: Why so many? Fish welfare: why so late? In Fish welfare in aquaculture - Problems and approaches, ed. Billo Heinzpeter Studer, 4-9. Germany: IGN - International Society of Livestock Husbandry.
Volstorf, Jenny (2020). Knowledge as prerequisite for fish welfare — FishEthoBase as a basis. In Fish welfare in aquaculture - Problems and approaches, ed. Billo Heinzpeter Studer, 45-55. Germany: IGN - International Society of Livestock Husbandry.
Saraiva, João L., Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, Maria Filipa Castanheira, Jenny Volstorf, and Billo Heinzpeter Studer (2019). A Global Assessment of Welfare in Farmed Fishes: The Fishethobase. Fishes 4(2), 30: 1-18. doi:10.3390/fishes4020030