Assessing Fish Welfare in Aquaculture

  • Lars Helge StienEmail author
  • Marc Bracke
  • Chris Noble
  • Tore S. Kristiansen
Part of the Animal Welfare book series (AWNS, volume 20)


A framework for assessing the welfare of fish in aquaculture must have a suite of different welfare indicators that describe how well their welfare needs are met and thus their quality of life. The framework should utilise both input- and outcome-based welfare indicators. Input-based welfare indicators are parameters that describe the conditions the fish are subjected to, e.g. their environment. In many cases, input-based welfare indicators can give the farmer or assessor an early warning of deteriorating conditions, which can then be mitigated before they become too severe. However, it can be very challenging to have a complete overview of all the possible input parameters the fish are subjected to, at all times, and at all possible positions in the rearing facility that the fish may occupy. Further, their effects on welfare can also be subtle, delayed and also be dependent upon an array of complex interactions with other parameters and factors. It is, therefore, necessary to also include outcome-based indicators. These are parameters that are normally directly related to the animals, e.g. describing the animals themselves or their behaviour. A simple rule of thumb can be that as long as the fish look good, are doing well, are in good health, show normal behaviour and are thriving, it is not unreasonable to assume that the rearing system or operation is fulfilling, or has not markedly impacted upon, their welfare needs. If not, there is something wrong and this should be investigated further.


Welfare state Welfare needs Input-based welfare indicator Outcome-based welfare indicator Welfare assessment 



This chapter has been written in collaboration with the Surveillance of fish welfare-project (IMR project number: 14930), the FISHWELL-project (FHF project number: 901157) and the REGFISHWELH-project (NFR project number: 267664).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Helge Stien
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marc Bracke
    • 2
  • Chris Noble
    • 3
  • Tore S. Kristiansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine ResearchBergenNorway
  2. 2.Wageningen Livestock ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.NOFIMATromsøNorway

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