Welfare standards in the aquaculture industry

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Our goal is to raise welfare standards in the aquaculture industry with regard primarily to the following five areas:

  1. Water quality
  2. Feed
  3. Health / use of medicines
  4. Transportation and handling
  5. Stunning and slaughter

Research work

On these aspects, we have created a list of research work that can be used as a basis for deriving potential solutions. In addition, we are supporting not only a student writing her master’s thesis on the costs and benefits of specific welfare improvement measures in the aquaculture and fish farming industry, but also a doctoral candidate in her efforts to define practice-oriented animal welfare indicators. Through our external aquaculture project manager, we also cooperate with a working group of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, which involves various activities including an examination of the animal welfare indicators for salmon cultures, defined as part of a project in Norway, in terms of how these indicators can be applied to other fish species.

Contacts with stakeholders

In Germany, the challenge is to raise the country’s already high standards (compared to other countries). In the EU and beyond, we want to help raise standards to German levels in order to then in turn implement further improvements in Germany. This is how we want to initiate a steady increase in international standards. To accomplish this, we are already in talks with some of Germany’s biggest retailers to define uniform minimum criteria. Our project manager has also established extensive contacts with researchers as well as producers and official bodies in Germany in order to ensure that all stakeholders work toward a common goal. German producers have a special interest here because raising animal welfare standards abroad can help to compensate for cost disadvantages in Germany.

Conferences and workshops

We have already networked and given presentations at a number of specialist conferences and held workshops with producers on the subject of animal welfare in the aquaculture industry. For example, our project manager has not only attended the leading trade fair »Fish International« in Bremen, the 4th Fish Industry Summit in Hamburg, an event organized by the Thünen Institute and visited the Society for Marine Aquaculture in Büsum, but he has also been invited directly by producers as a speaker and/or workshop leader.

Study on consumer attitudes

At the end of 2017, we – working together with Kaufland – commissioned two business psychologists to conduct in three German cities ten intensive interviews and, additionally, three group discussions each with ten participants. Compared with conventional surveys, this format is more effective at revealing information and findings of much greater relevance. The findings reveal which measures are important to consumers and where there is still a lack of knowledge about the needs of fish.

The discussion-and-response behavior in all three cities was very similar, which is testament to the representativeness of this information-gathering exercise.

Cooperation with international organizations

Last but not least, we also share information and findings with other NGOs who are also addressing this animal welfare issue, which has only recently become a subject of discussion.

Although our work here is still in its early stages and no lives have been affected yet, all the relevant structures were put in place to have an impact in the future. We are extremely pleased with our intermediate outcome of acquiring key partners. Within a short period of time, we managed to get most relevant stakeholders on board, including producers, organizations, and scientists. Furthermore, seven of the biggest supermarket chains in Germany committed to improving fish welfare. It can be assumed that fewer animals will be raised and killed because the necessary measures will generate costs, in turn leading to higher prices.

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