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Development of practical on farm cod welfare indices - AW1208

A fundamental principle underlying cod farming systems is the protection and promotion of the welfare of farmed Atlantic cod. JSF endorse and apply the principles of the ‘five freedoms’ (as first postulated by the Brambell Committee 1965) a welfare code that underpins standards by the RSPCA, Organic Food Federation and the Farmed Animal Welfare Council, amongst others. JSF propose to at least match fund with in-kind support. Dedicating JSF staff to the project as an in-kind contribution generates money and makes more money available for research collaboration.

JSF aim to utilise the wealth of research experience that exists within the company to undertake the current research project. The work will be conducted as on-farm trials in collaboration with internationally respected scientists in the field of fish stress and welfare avoiding tank based studies due to their lack of transferability and relevance to commercial practices. Consequently, commercially relevant on-farm data will be generated that is of direct value to the industry.

DEFRA and other bodies have identified the need to scale-up welfare experimentation to an ‘on-farm’ level, further strengthening our desire to facilitate and drive this research.

The main aim of the project will be to identify, appraise and develop welfare indices that are practical, meaningful and specific to cod based on existing knowledge and in accordance with the SARF call and the 3Rs policy SARF maintains.

The project aims to investigate welfare indices by applying welfare standards for Atlantic salmon, as is current industry practice, during on-farm trials.

The results of the planned trials will provide an ideal baseline from which welfare improvements can be measured. Adopting this approach means that fish will not be subjected to extreme levels of stress or experimentation; this being unnecessary from both a scientific and ethical point of view.

An initial pilot study will be undertaken to investigate and appraise welfare indicators, these will then be validated in subsequent replicated trials.

It is anticipated that the results from this project will go towards:·
1) Recommendations on cod harvesting practices.
2) Writing of a report on cod specific welfare indicators that will go towards a code of best practise for cod on-growing and EU/Scottish/UK legislation
3) Several peer reviewed publications
The main objectives of this project are to:
1. Undertake a replicated pilot study of a current crowding and pre-harvest handling procedure to apply and investigate an initial set of welfare indicators and to establish the level of variability in key physiological, environmental and behavioural parameters, so that subsequent experiments take account of this.
2. Organise a preliminary workshop on cod welfare. This workshop will appraise the findings of the pilot study so as to develop an agreed set of welfare indicators for investigation in the later replicated main trials and revise the sampling protocol if required.
3. Run a series of replicated trials during commercial harvests that will further investigate and validate the chosen welfare indicators (derived through assessment of the results of the pilot study and the initial workshop), so that they are the most valuable to the industry.
4. Produce and present a report of cod welfare indices and in addition, recommended pre-harvest handling protocols to the industry by the end of 2007.
5. Organise a final workshop. The final workshop will disseminate the results of the whole project to the wider industry and other interested parties.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Development of Practical On-Farm Cod Welfare Indices   (1501k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2008

Cost: £80,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Johnson Seafarms Ltd
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare