The book: All about fair-fish
“In the beginning, it was just a small idea, a leisure activity, so to speak“, says Billo Heinzpeter Studer in his new book that was published in 2020. The book tells the story of fair-fish from his personal perspective.
At the time, Studer was still managing director of the Swiss farm animal protection organisation KAGfreiland, and in 1997 he began to develop guidelines for environmentally conscious and animal-friendly fish farms and fisheries as a side project. In 2000 he founded the association fair-fish together with a number of animal protection organisations, with the aim of creating publicity for animal welfare in fish, which was still quite an exotic concern back then. It was one of the first such organisations worldwide.
Studer describes the success of the revision of Swiss animal protection law, the reluctance of local professional fishermen and fish farmers to accept a label that promised them a higher price in return for special consideration for animals and the environment. He makes an account of all the difficulties he faced during a multi-year project with artisanal fishermen in Senegal which had the aim to create a bridge for fairly caught and paid fish to European retail chains. But the fair-fish association realised that it was too small an organization to have a direct impact on the market. Therefore, instead of label projects, campaigns have since been launched in order to target objectionable practices in fisheries and aquaculture using public pressure.
It was in 2012, after several years of disputes with the veterinary authorities about deficiencies in the regulation and enforcement of fish welfare in aquaculture, that the idea arose to compile the widely scattered studies and publications in order to create an ethological profile for each farmed fish species, which would allow the formulation of scientifically based recommendations to improve the welfare of these fish in aquaculture. The online database FishEthoBase, which Studer in turn launched as a sideline after his retirement, developed into an innovative project with a university connection in only a few years. It now employs seven people with research and consulting in various countries and sets new standards—just at the right time, as a growing number of fish farmers are now also finally willing to pay more attention to fish welfare.