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Focus on Fish Quality Brings Better Animal Welfare

Welfare Sustainability Processing +5 more

AUSTRALIA - The Aquatic Animal Welfare Working Group (AAWWG), which operates under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS), has established a set of overarching principles in relation to animal welfare to allow the aquatic animal sector to enhance its codes of practice.

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The eight overarching principles have been developed so that sub-sectors of the aquatic animal industry can assess the practices applied in their particular industry to achieve the desired outcome of improved animal welfare, said Brett McCallum, Chair of the AAWWG.

AAWS was developed by the Australian Government to raise the standards for animal care and welfare. The Strategy unites animal industries, welfare groups, community organisations and State and Territory governments to work together on a single agreed programme on behalf of the broader community.

The Strategy is overseen by a skills-based Advisory Committee charged with driving the implementation of the AAWS. The 15-person committee includes stakeholder representatives and experts in various fields of animal welfare and is chaired by Dr Gardner Murray.

Brett McCallum said AAWS identified the need for consistency in national approaches to animal welfare as a major priority a goal to which his group was working.

All four aquatic sectors - Commercial, Recreational, Aquaculture and Ornamental - are actively involved in implementing the principles the Working Group has developed, Mr McCallum said.

Each sector is assessing if the principles are covered in existing product handling codes of practice and upgrading these if improvements are identified, said Mr McCallum.

Sectors establishing new codes of practice for animal welfare will, in many cases, formalise what they were already doing in their every day operations.

Stocktakes identified that in most cases industry was already achieving appropriate levels of animal welfare through their normal quality assurance actions.

These sectors will now establish animal welfare guidelines or codes of best practice for the various methods of capture used, including line, pot/trap, trawl, aquaculture and recreational, ensuring consistency no matter the method of capture or geographical location.

The Working Group, which includes national representation from all the aquatic animal sub-sectors, aims to have all the guidelines and codes in place by the end of 2012.

The guidelines will be reviewed regularly by the AAWWG through sub-sector stakeholder networks for currency with the national animal welfare strategy, as well as any changes to capture methods and any adopted international welfare guidelines developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Mr McCallum said it was important to constantly review and extend the guidelines where new technology was developed, research outcomes understood and any welfare issues surfaced.

The restaurant trade is a good example where there is a lot of misinformation, particularly on the part of the general public about holding of live seafood, he said.

This is where education is the key and something the guidelines will look to address.

But commercial fisher Terry Must told ABC Rural it's been enshrined as best practice by north Queensland commercial fishers for the last 20 years.

"If they haven't used this method of killing and chilling the fish, you can see a darker coloured flesh," he said.

"The buyers are a bit reluctant to pay a premium price and you can tell the fishermen straight away that they haven't got the best Code of Practice.

"If they use a different practice, they'll get a better price for their product."

Further Reading

You can view more on the guidelines by clicking here.