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Editors desk

Is focus on fish welfare becoming too stringent?
Spring is appearing in the UK and the days are getting noticeably longer now! This reminds me of the photoperiodicity and intensity of light being so important in aquaculture, and the need to understand how light governs fish physiology and metabolism. Whether it is associated with sexual maturity and breeding, or a stimulation of growth and development - as we see in smoltification in salmon and their desire to enter seawater in the late spring.

Extended light period is a cue for migration in some species, as well as associated changes in water temperatures. We often take light for granted, but in future as we see the expansion of Recirculation Aquaculture Systems (RAS) technologies then its importance will become more evident in the future.

Too much light for the advancement of growth and increased appetite may lead to problems. It is an area where more work is required to assess various stimuli on the health of the immune system of fish, feeding behaviour, and the use of light regimes for salmon smolt advancement - compared to alternative regimes in the hatchery.

The connection with nutrition and feed technology is obvious, and so this is an area for more research as we expand aquaculture and evaluate the optimum conditions, to grow new fish species and produce superior production with welfare in mind.On the topic of welfare, there has been widespread reports in the media regarding the ethics of boiling lobsters alive when prepared for the table. The Swiss government has now legislated to ban the practice and pressure is growing in the UK to add lobsters to the Animal Welfare Act.

The question as to whether decapods experience pain has been raised before, but if they are to be listed as sentient animals and given the same status as fish it will open some a number of issues. Almost certainly they will be included in the UK’s Animal Scientific Procedures’ Act of 1986 with fish and cephalopods listed.

Decapods are routinely used in toxicity tests for many drugs, chemicals and pollutants in university and government laboratories. Many more scientists will come under heavy scrutiny and those working to develop novel technologies could experience an avalanche of extra paperwork and yearly reporting of all their animal data to regulatory authorities.

Institutional Animal Care Committees have enough to contend with traditional species but to include crabs; lobsters and possible shrimp would be a nightmare. The day when the government Inspector or Veterinarian turns up at the laboratory and asks ‘are your crabs and lobsters and shrimp happy today’, be prepared to comply with a whole new set of rules to placate these wise officials with so much aquaculture experience.

However, animal welfare and the highest level of ethics should always prevail either on the fish farm or in the laboratory facility. Good scientists naturally desire the very best conditions for their animals and it goes without saying!

Finally, I have been invited to Chair a session on Aquaculture Nutrition Developments at the British Society for Animal Science (BSAS) in Dublin for the April 8-11, 2018. This will be a much-focused event attracting some 500 delegates, and an opportunity to advance the aqua feed and fish nutrition agenda and promote the significance of aquaculture production as a serious player in the production of healthy food for the consumer.

Professor Simon Davies

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