News from fair-fish: June 2019

We warmly welcome you to the first edition in the new format of fair-fish internationals' newsletter. Below, we are proud to update you on the work carried out by our research team, the Fish Ethology and Welfare Group, since the beginning of this year: More research, more publications, and more events.

A promising next Summer Shoal

Summer Shoal 2019

September 10-13 seems still far away, but the programme of our third Summer Shoal has already taken shape. In a special keynote, top fish behaviour researcher Culum Brown will introduce into fish cognition and welfare with his renowned talent and science-based knowledge.

An impressing list of recognised experts will then share their science and experience in aquaculture and fish welfare covering various issues like e.g. proteomics, operational welfare indicators, environmental enrichment, and fish welfare criteria as a new integral part of seafood certification schemes.

In a separate fisheries section, fish and fishermen’s welfare will be explored.

Should you intend to share your own studies or field experiences within the Summer Shoal, hurry up: Abstract submission ends on June 30.

Similar is true for registration. The Summer Shoal is limited to 40 participants, and more than half of the seats are already booked.

Find all information here.

Billo Heinzpeter Studer

First edition of Fish Welfare Course

Fish Welfare CoursePicture: Astronotus ocellatus by Jón Helgi Jónsson under the CC BY-SA license 

fair-fish international in collaboration with its Fish Ethology and Welfare Group and Centro de Ciencias do Mar (CCMAR) are proud to present the first edition of our Fish Welfare Course. We carefully selected top international experts in their fields to teach each module, which were specifically designed to have a practical approach. This intensive 3-day training program aims to provide a complete theoretical and practical knowledge covering every aspect of fish welfare, such as pain and sentience, stress, behaviour, nutrition, reproduction, slaughter, certification, auditing, and more.

The course is directed to everyone interested in the topic, from biologists, veterinarians, researchers, technicians and students, to operation directors and quality managers in aquaculture and/or fisheries, as well as members of NGOs and associations promoting fish welfare and general public with interest in fish welfare and a background in fish science. Be aware that places are limited!

Find all information here.

João L. Saraiva

First results of our CAREFISH project

CAREFISHDrawing: Kasia Jockowska


fair-fish international was entrusted by Friend of the Sea (FOS) , one of the leading international certification schemes for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, with the task of developing fish welfare criteria for the FOS standard.

The criteria are based on the scientific findings on ethology presented by fair-fish in the freely accessible online database, and on its confrontation with the reality on FOS-certified fish farms. In a first visit, a gap analysis was carried out, providing the farmer with a report and suggestions for improvement. In the second visit, after half a year, we determine which of the suggestions could be implemented and which could not, and for what reasons.

The first round of visits has ended, embracing 50 farms from 32 companies in 12 countries, covering a total of 25 finfish species and including hatchery and/or slaughter. The high severity problems identified during the first visit mainly concern humane slaughter (75% of the companies), stress (41%) and environmental enrichment (31%). Problems of medium severity are mainly related to lack of fish welfare training (78%), lack of documentation of fish handling (16%) or of fish welfare indicators (13%).

At the second visits, as far as already concluded, only some of the proposals were implemented or at least planned. There are major hurdles in the introduction of methods for humane slaughter, the main concerns being a suspicion of meat quality loss (e.g. haemorrhage under electrical stunning) and higher operating costs. Environmental enrichment (shelter, substrate) is also facing major hurdles; the farmers fear higher management effort and negative hygienic effects. On the other hand, farmers have a wait-and-see attitude towards improving fish welfare training. Our Fish Ethology and Welfare Group will therefore hold a first course in November 2019 in Faro.

The definition of fish welfare criteria as a mandatory part of the FOS standard faces the problem that for many of the observed problems there are still no examples a farm could simply adopt. We therefore plan to make criteria binding after a realistic deadline as soon as one farm with the same species and a comparable system fulfils them. Since the aim is to improve the welfare of as many fish farms as possible, this will only be possible step by step through clever developments in practice.

Billo Heinzpeter Studer

FishEthoBase - The beginning

In our full profiles, we review in depth scientific findings in 19 categories and numerous sub-categories (such as swimming, reproduction, social behaviour, coping styles) and conclude farming recommendations. These do not aim to replace hatchery manuals or farming guidelines but rather complement those and challenge existing systems by taking natural behaviour as the gold standard. The latest full profile - on the ninth species we reviewed - is on African catfish.

Our short profiles focus on 10 core criteria for farming and take it a step further by directly comparing natural needs and farming conditions to highlight the potential for improving fish welfare. By assigning a FishEthoScore to the minimum farming conditions, the ideal conditions, and our certainty of the data reviewed, the user gets an impression of the species' suitability of being farmed and the possibilities for achieving the best possible welfare. We are in the middle of a major transformation process to display results even more consistently across the 41 profiles we created so far. More soon!

Jenny Volstorf

The Fish Ethology Database goes on

The Fish Ethology Database goes onDrawing: Kasia Jockowska


In order to have a consistent overview of the welfare of farmed fishes, we present the FishEthoBase, an open-access database that ultimately aims to provide information on the welfare of all fish species currently farmed worldwide. A study across the first 41 profiles reveals amazing differences between the species with regards to current and potential welfare states.

Presently with over 40 species, this database is directed to all stakeholders in the field and targets not only to bridge the gaps between them but also to provide scientific information to improve the welfare of fish. The current text explains the database and presents an analysis of the welfare scores of 41 species, suggesting that (i) the general welfare state of farmed fishes is poor, (ii) there is some potential for improvement and (iii) this potential is related to research on species’ needs, but (iv) there are many remaining knowledge gaps and (v) current fish farming technologies do not seem to fully address welfare issues. The existence of a framework, such as the FishEthoBase, is proposed as fundamental to the design of strategies that improve the welfare of farmed fish.

Open access to A Global Assessment of Welfare in Farmed Fishes: The FishEthoBase .

João L. Saraiva

We were there making new friends

March 6, Brussels
Rethink Fish. Welfare at the heart of EU Aquaculture, European Parliament, Brussels Dr. João Saraiva presented on fish sentience and the first results of our CAREFISH project.

May 16, Lisbon, European Maritime day 2019
Dr. João Saraiva talking about fish welfare at the "Aquaculture and the Social Acceptability Challenge" session

June 11, Brussels, at Eurogroup for Animals
Meeting of fish welfare advocates and researchers Billo Heinzpeter Studer and Dr. João Saraiva presented the Fish Ethology and Welfare Group, its achievements, and long-term plan

Dissemination in action

Dissemination in actionDrawing: Kasia Jockowska


Saraiva J. L. & Arechavala-Lopez P. (2019) Welfare of Cultured and Experimental Fishes. Special issue of Fishes (ISSN 2410-3888). Open access:

Book chapter:
Saraiva J. L., Castanheira M. F., Arechavala-López P. A, Volstorf J., Studer B. H. P., Domestication and Welfare in Farmed Fish. In: Animal Domestication. Animal Domestication. ; 2018. doi:10.5772/intechopen.77251

Peer-reviewed publication:
Saraiva, J. L., Arechavala-Lopez, P., Castanheira, M. F., Volstorf, J., & Studer B. H. P. (2019). A Global Assessment of Welfare in Farmed Fishes: The FishEthoBase. Fishes, 4(2), 30. Open access .



May 14, Swansea University, UK
1st Symposium on Welfare in Aquaculture: Welfare Indicators for Novel Species
Dr. Maria-Filipa Castanheira presented the CAREFISH Project providing science-based evidence and directions for humane fish farming.

May 7-10, Cartagena, Spain
XVII Congreso Nacional de Acuicultura
Arechavala-Lopez, P., Diaz-Gil, C., Saraiva, J. L., Moranta, D., Nuñez-Velazquez, S., Castanheira, M. F., Mora-Ruiz, M. R., Grau, A. (2019) Effects of structural environmental enrichment on juvenile seabream (Sparus aurata) under experimental conditions. Best poster award!

May 21-24, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
43rd Annual Larval Fish Conference, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Arechavala-Lopez, P., Saraiva, J.L., Diaz-Gil, C., Nuñez-Velazquez, S., Castanheira, M.F., Studer, B. H. P., Mora-Ruiz, M. R., Grau, A. (2019). Relevance of structural environmental enrichment on elhs behaviour experiments. Poster.


The Fish Ethology and Welfare Group (FishEthoGroup), the research team of fair-fish international, celebrated an agreement with CCMAR , the Centre of Marine Sciences in Faro, Portugal, to establish a new research group at this institution. This way, since January 2019 the "institutional home" of the FishEthoGroup has been based at CCMAR and both organisations may power up their activities, benefiting on one hand from the expertise and network of the FishEthoGroup and on the other from access to an internationally renowned cluster of research teams, state-of-the art facilities, and high-end training programs.

Thank you for your interest in our news. We will be happy to keep you posted on coming news, and we look forward to meeting you in person, be it during our Summer Shoal, our first Fish Welfare Course or in one of the many congresses on the topics we are working on in order to improve the welfare of farmed fish.

Kind regards,

Billo Heinzpeter Studer
fair-fish international association
Wängistr. 29, 8355 Aadorf
Dr. João Saraiva
Group Leader
Fish Ethology and Welfare Group
Rua José Mateus Horta 3
8000-536. Faro, Portugal