News from fair-fish: December 2022

Many things happened since our last edition. We were prolific, and at the same time we were able to strengthen our organisational basis. We proudly present you all these news.

A look back to this year's Summer Shoal

Unusual setting for a "normal" conference, but already a familiar image for the Summer Shoal: participants sit in a circle under the open sky.

At our fourth Summer Shoal, we welcomed Felicity Huntingford, a pioneer in the field of fish welfare, who took us through 60 years of literature to find out what behavioural need is and whether fishes have it. Vivek Rachuri and Sena Deniz Kıraç from the non-governmental organisations Fish Welfare Initiative and Kafessiz Türkiye spoke about the situation of aquaculture in India and Turkey. In Auke Pasterkamp ( we had a representative of the fishing industry as a guest who described his path from sceptic to convinced supporter of fisheries certification. These four people alone would probably never have met under other circumstances—and there were a total of 40 people from science, veterinary medicine, from non-governmental organisations and certifiers who contributed their perspectives.

One speaker said that what he was presenting to us were thoughts spoken aloud which he would not have dared to do at a "normal" conference. He hit the nail on the head: the Summer Shoal is about low barriers, about breaking down fears of contact, about direct contact with each other. We will continue in doing so not only at the next Summer Shoal but on each day until then and beyond!

For the text book and the videos of all talks and discussions please follow this link.

Aquaculture Advisory Council commissioned FishEthoGroup

The FishEthoGroup was chosen by the Aquaculture Advisory Council (AAC) to produce a report addressing the use of behavioural knowledge of farmed fish species to improve welfare and production in European Aquaculture. This important achievement testifies the quality and impact of the work produced by the FishEthoGroup in recent years.

The report will address the state-of-the-art in fish welfare (including an ethological perspective on welfare and why behavioural variables are good candidates for operational welfare indicators), case studies and welfare profiles from the five major species in EU fish farming (salmon, trout, seabass, seabream and carp), an EU-wide industry survey regarding welfare measures in practice, suggestions for feasible improvements (including, for example, the implementation of species-specific environmental enrichment systems, refinement of handling and transport methods and humane slaughter protocols) as well as identifying priorities for research and funding. The information already gathered at the FishEthoBase is acknowledged to be highly valuable to address these issues.

The report will provide fundamental information for the future of EU policy decisions regarding welfare in fish farming in the coming years.

João L. Saraiva, Team leader, FishEthoGroup

Less suffering in fisheries

Our Carefish/catch consortium of five organisations is conducting research and outreach, assessing the impact of different fishing methods on fishes. Scientists from Portugal and Spain contribute new knowledge with basic research in the laboratory and at sea on the behavior and condition of fishes in catch situations.

Another component of the project is a catch complement to the FishEthoBase, which compiles and interprets all available facts on the impact of different fishing methods on fishes of target species and on animals in the by-catch. The database will be published online and continue to be essential for communication in the future, as it provides a previously unattainable level of information on the subject in a clear format, as well as a basis for measures to reduce the suffering of fish in fisheries.

In the course of the project, the findings from our research will flow into the development of guidelines for the "Friend of the Sea" certification scheme. In this way, our work will have a direct influence on fishing practice in an exemplary manner.

Andreas Stamer, Scientific director, fair-fish International

The Carefish/catch project in the media

We have social media pages for scientific dissemination and news related to this project. Carefish/catch has profile pages at Facebook , Instagram , LinkedIn and Twitter , which are updated weekly.

The Carefish/catch project is also gaining noticeable attention from media. So far, the media coverage already involved several different vehicles, including a radio programme! There are journalistic stories published in Pesca & Companhia , Cofina Media , Wilder—Rewilding your days , Fish Focus , O Bichinho da Rádio , and Green Savers , besides reposts spread in other vehicles. Most of them are in Portuguese, but there is one in English, the journalistic story published at Fish Focus. Hoping to get even more attention about this important project next year, which represents a pioneering approach in a complex field marked by dozens of fishing methods and hundreds of species concerned.

Caroline Marques Maia, researcher, FishEthoGroup

First fish welfare guide in Spanish aquaculture

This first guide on fish welfare in Spanish aquaculture is the result of ambitious collaborative work and constructive discussions between aquaculture producers, leading animal welfare NGOs, scientists and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with the aim of contributing to effectively improve fish welfare in Spanish aquaculture. One of the main values of this document is precisely its collaborative approach, where the FEG association took on the important role of coordinating the working group and editing the document. This interdisciplinarity endows its guidelines with rigour, comprehensiveness and social coherence. It will also make it easier to project its influence on future legal regulations and certifications.

The guide addresses basic concepts on welfare but will be followed by specific guidelines for each species and production system. The existence of this document is important since it lays down concepts, establishes common bases and develops the first consensual guidelines on farmed fish welfare. This initiative provides information on the state of aquaculture activity in Spain in this area and helps to promote a more coordinated and responsible development. The guide is aimed at companies and professionals in the aquaculture sector, as well as public administrations, legislators, scientific-technological and educational sectors, and society in general. Its promoters are aware that the knowledge and social valuation of fish welfare is evolving and wish to position it as an element of sustainability.

This work has been financed by APROMAR with co-funding from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Spanish Government and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund of the European Union. The Guide on Fish Welfare in Spanish Aquaculture is available in Spanish and  English and can be downloaded here .

Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, Researcher, FishEthoGroup

News from the FishEthoBase

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) Photo: Ryan Somma/Wikimedia)

We extended two orders: to the siluriforms, we added Chinese longsnout catfish (Tachysurus dumerili) , Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus ), Black bullhead catfish (Ameiurus melas ), and Yellow catfish (Tachysurus sinensis ); the cyprinids, we complemented with Orangefin labeo (Labeo calbasu ), Pengba (Osteobrama belangeri ), and Tinfoil barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii ).

The siluriforms rate higher in our assessment of welfare potential in captivity. This is due to, among others, the low depth range in T. sinensis and I. punctatus as well as short migration distances in T. sinensis and A. melas. Among the cyprinids, B. schwanenfeldii stands out, as it naturally aggregates in schools—good prerequisite for the stocking densities in farms—and as it does not display aggression. Nevertheless, in both groups, many criteria point to unfavourable circumstances to experience high welfare in captivity. Visit for more details.

Jenny Volstorf, FishEthoBase director, fair-fish International

Radio FishEthoBase

FishEthoBase—the first online and open access database to assemble ethological knowledge of farmed fishes, launched by fair-fish international—has a programme at Fish Talk, a scientific dissemination podcast of FishEthoGroup. It is focused on episodes presenting important characteristics of fishes and other aquatic farmed animals related to their natural behaviours, needs and farming conditions to be considered in order to assess and improve their welfare. FishTalk is structured as a spots series—that is, ‘mini’ podcasts of less than 3 minutes—focused on species with profiles already published by FishEthoBase.

We are proud to announce that nine spots series of the FishEthoBase programme were released this year so far! Each month a new series has been released since last February, when the programme was launched. The nine series already available online cover episodes about Meagre, Kaluga, Beluga, Giant gourami, Common cuttlefish, Milkfish, Channel catfish, and Pond loach, besides different snappers, sturgeons, carps and octopus species. All the epidodes already released are available online at the FishEthoGroup website and can be accessed here . Now, the episodes are also published directly at the overview page of the correspondent species profile at FishEthoBase . Waiting for the next episodes of this insightful podcast programme.

Caroline Marques Maia, researcher, FishEthoGroup

New management of fair-fish international

From left: Fausta Borsani, Andreas Stamer, Jenny Volstorf

The board of fair-fish international succeeded in hiring new members of its management.

Fausta Borsani is our new Executive director and head of the executive board. She got to know fair-fish about 16 years ago during our Senegal project, when she worked for Migros as head of ethical projects. The agricultural economist has proven her talent for leadership and communication in various places.

Our new scientific director and member of the executive board Dr. Andreas Stamer came into contact with fair-fish years ago, too, when we commissioned the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) to conduct a study on the stunning of farmed fish. At the time, the biologist and agronomist was the aquaculture expert at FiBL.

Dr. Jenny Volstorf is the director of the FishEthoBase for whose development she has been instrumental since its start nine years ago. The psychologist not only knows the farthest corners of the extensive database, but also the lessons learnt of fair-fish International. She is a member of the executive board.

Billo Heinzpeter Studer, President, fair-fish international

More information about the executive team

Call for new board members

The rapidly growing fair-fish international association is tackling the next ten years. Our vision:

We want to change people's perception and behaviour towards fishes, focusing on science and communication.

We are looking for reinforcement for our board. We think of independent persons with a background in animal welfare, environmental protection, fair trade, research, finance, fundraising, organisation, or law.

Effort: Our board meets 1-2 times in person and 2-3 times online per year. In addition, there are individual departmental contacts with the management.
Compensation: The association pays all expenses and a meeting fee.


Presentation at scientific events

Presenting at Aquaculure Europe, from left: Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, Ana Rita Oliveira, João Saraiva, Adrián V. Montalt, and María Cabrera-Álvarez.

Disseminating scientific-based knowledge is one important activitiy to help improving the welfare of farmed fishes and other aquatic species in a practical way. And good communication is fundamental for this! In 2022, FishEthoGroup participated at five scientific events around the world presenting talks, posters,  and more. These were great opportunities to spread the word and share knowledge about fish behaviour and welfare, both online or in events hosted in Spain, Italy, Portugal and Brazil.

In the first half of the year, João Saraiva made an interesting interactive presentation about fish welfare training at an online event organised by the Eurogroup for Animals, called “Fish welfare in aquaculture: the practical approach to husbandry, health and consumers”. In June, María Cabrera-Álvarez and Ana Rita Oliveira talked about the effects of environmental enrichment on the welfare of Gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) broodstock and about the impact of husbrandry procedures on their heart rate at the IX Iberian Congress of Ichthyology  in Portugal, a study they presented also in September at Aquaculture Europe 2022 in Italy. In this same important conference, organised by the European Aquaculture Society, João Saraiva participated at a plenary session and moderated a welfare session—the biggest one!—on domestication and welfare of farmed fishes.

In October, Pablo Arechavala-Lopez and João Saraiva participated at the “Foro de los Recursos Marinos y de la Acuicultura de las Rías Gallegas” in Spain, presenting talks about fish welfare as a common objective and about environmental enrichment as a tool to improve the welfare and the production rates of captive fishes. In November, Caroline Marques Maia participated at the Brazilian event "39º Encontro Anual de Etologia” where she presented a symposium talk about scientific dissemination of fish ethology and welfare and an oral presentation about preference and motivation responses of fishes applied to their welfare. She also presented a poster about preferences of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) for shelter or environmental complexity—another good opportunity to discuss some results from our experiments!

Caroline Marques Maia, researcher, FishEthoGroup

Papers and book chapters published this year

The FishEthoGroup develops new scientific research to help filling the knowledge gaps on fish welfare, moving towards providing solutions and improving the quality of life of these animals. So far this year, FishEthoGroup team members published two papers. João Saraiva and Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, in collaboration with Patrícia Rachinas-Lopes, published the paper “Finding the ‘golden stocking density’: A balance between fish welfare and farmers' perspectives” in the Frontiers in Veterinary Science journal. This review paper addressed the complex relationship between fish welfare, stocking density and influencing factors that makes it challenging to define a specific optimal stocking density for fishes in captivity.

Saraiva and Arechavala-Lopez also published the paper “Suspended structures reduce variability of group risk-taking responses of Dicentrarchus labrax juvenile reared in tanks” in the Fishes journal, in collaboration with other authors. This study investigated the effect of structural enrichment with vertical U-shaped ropes on the stress response at the group level and on social interactions of European seabass juveniles. Other papers are in preparation for submission soon.

Finally, in collaboration with Lynne Sneddon, Saraiva and Arechavala-Lopez published a chapter about the welfare of fishes in aquaculture systems in the new Routledge Handbook of Animal Welfare.

Caroline Marques Maia, researcher, FishEthoGroup

Partnership on a new basis

The two organisations fair-fish international and Fish Ethology and Welfare Group (FishEthoGroup) have decided to reorganise their partnership. The FishEthoGroup had emerged as a scientific spin-off from fair-fish four years ago to establish scientific cooperation at a university. Both partners successfully cooperate on various projects and pursue a common vision.

Now the desire for greater independence under ongoing friendship became apparent. The partners want to continue working together, but to better communicate and make more visible their own achievements and project shares—and to leave open the possibility to cooperate with others as well. A corresponding Memorandum of Understanding sets out the principles.

Fausta Borsani, Executive director, fair-fish international

Thank you for your interest. Should you have any question, suggestion or critique, we will be happy to hear from you.
We wish you all the best for the last weeks of this year and hope to be in touch at the beginning of next year again.

Kind regards,

Billo Heinzpeter Studer, President, fair-fish international