Research project «Animal welfare also for farmed fish»

Fish farming in Switzerland has developed rapidly over the last years and will continue to grow in the future. However, there is a lack of scientifically validated methods available to fish farmers to assess the welfare of their fish in the installations.

In collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) the FSVO is promoting the development of a model to systematically record and evaluate fish welfare in aquaculture installations. The objective is a software application (an “app”) that affords an individualised documentation to the fish farmers and makes available a standardised methodology for the research.

A model for the welfare of the fish

Based on international literature and practical experience with feeding installations, the following parameters have been developed to evaluate the welfare of the fish in 5 areas:

  • Water module: Quality of the water in the installation
  • Management module: Characteristics of the operation which directly or indirectly influence the welfare of the fish
  • Fish behavioural module: the general behaviour and dynamics of the group of fish
  • External fish module: External observations of the fish
  • Internal fish module: Examination of internal organs

Each module contains a number of parameters that by means of a mathematical model enable a module grade to be calculated. Some parameters are relevant only for certain aquaculture installations, and certain parameters are specific to particular species of fish. Consequently, the model is designed to be flexible enough to enable the modules to assess diverse installations and fish species.

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In Switzerland the perch is a popular edible fish, and local fishing falls far short of meeting the demand. This fish species is therefore found more and more in aquaculture installa-tions.


An app for fish farmers

A software application based on the model has been designed and will be further developed for use as an Android app and MS application. The app will be available by the end of 2020 in German, French and English, for use in recirculation and flow-through installations holding rainbow trout and pike perch. Perch will be integrated into the app by the beginning of 2021.

The ZHAW team

The project “Fish Welfare in Swiss Aquaculture” is headed by the research group leader Dr Dominik Refardt and doctoral student Linda Tschirren from the ZHAW and carried out in collaboration with representatives from across the aquaculture segment.

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The ZHAW research group for aquaculture systems carries out research and teaches in many areas of aquaculture with a focus on efficient and sustainable technologies as well as on aspects of the welfare and health of the fish.

Last modification 23.09.2020

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