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New report challenges welfare of fish farming

UK - As the fish farming industry gathers in Edinburgh for theAquaculture Today conference (17 19 April) a new report from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) challenges the welfare standards within the aquaculture industry.

The report, Closed Waters: The welfare of farmed Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Atlantic Cod and Atlantic Halibut was launched today by the two animal welfare organisations and is reported to expose the "poor welfare" that is blighting the industry.

The global aquaculture industry is the fastest growing animal based farming sector with 40 per cent of the fish consumed worldwide now being farmed. In Britain 35 million Atlantic salmon and 40 million rainbow trout are farmed every year, making aquaculture Britain’s second largest livestock sector after chickens.

"It’s only a matter of time before more fish are farmed than caught at sea," says author of Closed Waters and CIWF’s Chief Policy Advisor Peter Stevenson.

"This is a recipe for environmental disaster. Fish farms have been heralded as the viable alternative to manage our depleting seas yet in fact threaten wild populations and sustainability. Farmed carnivorous species need fish in their diet. It takes 2-3 tonnes of wild fish to produce one tonne of farmed fish.

"World aquaculture has developed into a huge, rapidly expanding industry focused on maximising output and profit. The economic benefits of increasing production outweigh the economic losses of malformations and other diseases. In this climate, the fate of individual fish is of little concern."

Whilst CIWF and WSPA recognise that in Britain some progress in tackling welfare problems has been made nonetheless, both in Britain and elsewhere, the serious welfare concerns involved in intensive fish farming need to be addressed urgently to prevent further widespread suffering.

"In a report five years ago we called for action to bring about changes to this rapidly growing fish farming industry. Today’s report reiterates the pressing need to control fish farming before its too late," concludes Mr Stevenson.

The report has however been described as misleading by a trade association and has been criticised by fish health experts. To find out the flip side...

Read: Fish Welfare Report deliberately misleads public