Aquaculture for all

Welfare Concerns Highlighted by EU Welfare Platform


EU - The European Animal Welfare Platform (EAWP) has highlighted the key welfare issues in salmon production, with sea lice, vaccines and medicines and water quality being the top three concerns.

Other issues highlighted at harvest include transport, crowding, stunning and killing.

EAWP conducted a survey of industry stakeholders, in total 46 responded regarding farmed fish, highlighting what they felt were the key welfare issues.

Control of sea lice

The group recognised the problems with sea lice control, and the resistance that sea lice can build up to chemotherapeutants.

Legislation varies through countries, in Norway, when water temperatures reach 4-10 degrees Celsius, levels of lice are recorded at least every two weeks. In Scotland, up to 10 per cent of sites are audited annually.

It was recognised by the EAWP and stakeholders that the sea lice problem is best monitored by recording the numbers of sea lice on fish and its clinical and subclinical health status.

Short term recommendations:

  • Pharmaceutical and feed companies, veterinarians, and farmers should take increased responsibility for improved use of chemotherapy products i.e. effective dosing methods (well boats, in-feeds, etc.). Some current methods e.g. skirts may engender resistance more rapidly than others. A multinational cooperative project to standardise and monitor lice, treatment regimes and resistance would help identify the most effective dosing method.

  • Institute codes of practice following the principles of integrated pest management (with supporting legislation) in all countries with regard to lice control including weekly counts in multiple pens, fallowing and targeted treatments as advised by best veterinary science and practise.

  • Promote standardised data collection and sharing within a region to aid comparison and interpretation. Predictive models for how to use the data would guide decisions on treatments. Web pages with lice information should be supported (as

Long term recommendations:

  • Correct medicine usage of existing and new medicines will require a continuously updated database. A strategy should be put in place to ensure pharmaceutical companies continuously monitor product efficacy and research the most effective means of administration in different situations/environments.

  • The development of wrasse aquaculture and high standards of wrasse husbandry.

  • Bioassay improvements and development with resistance modelling.

  • Increase understanding of sea lice biology in a multination cooperative project.

  • Genetic selection of salmon broodstock for lice resistance.

  • Monitoring of sea lice burdens and treatment efficacy should be on-going with exchange of information between countries and regions.

  • A stream of epidemiological work to predict risk of sea lice challenges (modelling).

Treatment of Infectious disease

Infectious fish disease is still a major obstacle to global aquaculture. Although control of many diseases has been achieved through medicines and vaccines new problems have emerged and many traditional remedies are now unavailable.

The impact of disease and disease control measures on trout and salmon welfare are a major issue but there have been very few attempts to collect systemic data across the whole European industry so the exact scale of the problem is unknown.

The problem can be monitored through mortality levels but this is an end stage assessment of the results of disease and poor welfare. From a veterinary and industry standpoint assessing the ease of access to medicines and vaccines is also important to monitor the problem. The

Commercial vaccines are available in most Member States (MS) for rainbow trout and salmon, but there are either no authorised medicines or effective vaccine for many diseases.

Challenges include licensing only for one disease, or in certain countries. There are no authorised antiprotozoal medicines in any country for any fish species, hence control has to be through traditional, unlicensed remedies which in the cases of white spot and PKD are not effective.

In some countries no anaesthetic agents are licensed, which puts the welfare of fish at risk in several procedures and examinations.

Short term goals include:

  • Standardisation of interpretation of the cascade mechanism between countries in Europe. Member state government agencies need to standardise (or centralise) the licensing of medicines on a European basis and accept other MS authorised products.

  • Standardisation of interpretation of the cascade mechanism between countries in Europe. Member state government agencies need to standardise (or centralise) the licensing of medicines on a European basis and accept other MS authorised products.

  • Licensing authorities should enable medicines to be licensed for salmonids or finfish, rather than for just one species.

  • Ensure that veterinary products can be submitted as one dossier for one European scientific assessment and require just one decision for marketing authorisation (supported by IFAH-Europe (

  • In order to promote a better understanding of the relative roles of different diseases in salmonid welfare, an EU health surveillance programme should be put in place, with collection of data on all diseases and not just the relatively uncommon notifiable ones.

  • Establish a complete list of EU authorised veterinary medicines and vaccines for each species.

  • Establish a complete list of EU authorised veterinary medicines and vaccines for each species.

Long term goals:

  • A more effective licensing and approval system should be established to resolve the current lack of availability in the EU of medicines and vaccines, many of which are already widely used elsewhere, often in fish destined for consumption in the EU.

  • The establishment of a programme to obtain licenses for traditional remedies/medicines, or increase the scope of an authorised medicine to include other species, etc., from the European authorities (national MS or central) similar to the Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership (AADAP) program operating successfully in the USA ( Funding could be made available for research centres, farms, universities, vet practices to run small scale clinical trials as required for registration, under MUMS or a similar procedure.

Water Quality

The most important water quality parameters that may affect welfare are disolved oxygen levels, dissolved carbon dioxide (hypercapnia), pH levels, ammonia, temperature, aluminium, copper and suspended solids.

Short term goals:

  • Smolt producers to comply with water quality standards and maintain records of water quality parameters on farms.

  • Engage third party auditors to evaluate welfare in smolt production and pinpoint gaps when current operation is compared to best practise.

  • Communicate best practice routines to stakeholders and operators.

  • Harmonize the different water quality recommendations, (EFSA, FF & Norwegian). Annual national water quality sampling programs and analysis.

  • Continue to review and improve best practice reports and fish quality schemes (e.g Freedom Food) for use in auditing and training.

Long term goals:

  • Research funding must target improved understanding of how fish adapt to challenges in their hatchery environment.

  • Establish more training courses in water quality and recirculation technology at fish technician and manager (Bachelor and Master) levels.

  • Continuous improvements in fish health and welfare as more official and publicly available statistics of diseases, mortalities, deformities become available.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.
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