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How are fish farmed on aquafarms?
Both CIWF and Earthling Ed have major welfare concerns when it comes to aquaculture. Both parties cite the grim conditions the animals endure during their lives, as well as their often brutal deaths.
Earthling Ed said: “Fish spend their entire lives in underwater enclosures, either in sea cages or concrete tanks, and the overcrowding makes them susceptible to disease, stress and physical injuries such as fin damage, or spinal deformity, as well as parasitic infections.
“Fish are also handled roughly on aquafarms and those who are deemed too sick are taken out of the tanks and often beaten to death.”
Dr Lara added: “Most of the 51-167 billion fish produced in farms worldwide are reared in intensive systems, where fish are kept at high stocking densities in barren environments – a set up tailored to maximise production rather than fish welfare.”
Fish welfare issues on UK aquafarms
According to Dr Lara, fish are ‘intelligent with impressive behaviours and problem-solving abilities helping them find food, mates and avoid predators’.
She added: “An intensive farm is, by contrast, a boring and unstimulating environment that restricts the fishes’ behaviours”.
She said: “In intensive aquaculture fish can suffer from higher rates of acute and chronic stress, aggression and injuries, and with this the risk of disease transmission increases.
“Fish are often exposed to extremely stressful handling procedures, involving being taken out of the water where they experience asphyxia (suffocation), and the vast majority of fish farmed around the globe are killed using inhumane slaughter practices.”
These practices include asphyxiation in air or ice slurry. Loss of consciousness and death by these methods is not quick, and suffering is unacceptably prolonged.
Advocates believe fish should be stunned before being killed to avoid pain and suffering.
Dr Lara continues: “Stunning methods (such as electrical or percussive stunning) are available and can allow for a more humane death for some species, but there is a significant amount of work required to achieve widespread industry adoption.
“Many of the most popular fish to eat are carnivorous, meaning they eat other fish in the wild.
“When carnivorous species are farmed, we also need to consider the welfare of the huge numbers of fish that are caught from the wild to be made into feed for farmed fish.
“Every year 0.5 – 1 trillion fish are caught from the wild, destined to be reduced down to fishmeal and oil – around 70% of which is used by the aquaculture industry as feed. These fish will suffer during capture and are left to suffocate on board the vessel.
“The factory farming of fish also comes with environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, deleterious impacts on wild fish populations from farmed fish escapes, antibiotic and chemical use or abuse and nutrient release from waste feed and faeces that impact the marine environment.”