Industrial Fish Production
Brazilian fish farming
Brazil is the 4th largest producer of the world
Source: 2020 Annual Figures PeixeBR Brazilian Fish Farming Association
The growth of fish consumption per capita and the resulting intensification of fish farming with its subsequent impact, calls for an immediate consideration of measures for fish welfare.
This topic is approached in a holistic way and linked to ethical, political, economic, environmental and social concerns. We are facing an ethical transition when it comes to the treatment of animals and the inclusion of fish in these debates is urgent.
To advance concerns about welfare for this group of animals, it is of crucial importance to consider fish as sentience beings. According to the Cambridge Convention, fish have neurological substrates that generate consciousness and therefore can suffer and react to negative impacts.
THE EUROPEAN UNION RECOGNIZES FISH SENTIENCE SINCE 2010.
Critical points in Brazilian fish farming:
Fish farming, like any other agricultural production system, aims at profitability, producing the maximum at the lowest costs. This affects the lives of animals negatively and contributes to the degradation of the environment.
Fish farming is an attempt to guarantee the supply of fish with maximized profits, raising these animals in artificial tanks. However, the use of medicines and chemicals for the sake of accelerated weight gain and optimizing sales, comes with a lot of artificiality and negative impacts.
Often there is no correct treatment of waste water from fish farms and this is discharged directly into the environment, contributing to the contamination of rivers, seas and ground water. This pollution contributes to larger environmental imbalances.
Fish on the run
Species grown in closed production sites can accidentally escape and invade environments where they are exotic. This can threaten native species and contribute to imbalances of local flora and fauna.
Understand how fish wellfare is affected by fish farming:
Fish population density
The high quantity of fish per cubic meter coupled with low water quality affects the welfare of fish and contributes to increased aggression and mortality rates. Diseases and deformations can also be a consequence of the high density of fish in these tanks.
Fish farms must guarantee an adequate and abundant diet for different types of fish, without compromising the water quality. However, it is common in this sector to see prolonged periods of food deprivation (fasting), especially in the pre-slaughter period. Cannibalism, weight loss and fin erosion are the cruel consequences of these practices.
Transport and slaughter
One of the most critical points in fish farming is related to the slaughter of the fish. The most common techniques of slaughter in Brazil are death by suffocation or by thermal shocks (stunning the animal by lowering temperatures). Live transportation in tanks comes with increasing stress levels of the animal, due to the high stocking density and the accumulation of carbon dioxide and ammonia in the water. In addition, it is common practice to transport layers of fish (which are still alive) covered with layers of ice: this practice does not guarantee the unconsciousness of the animal, which can remain alive and suffer for hours.
Improvements in fish welfare are possible!
Fish are animals from a very different taxonomic group, which makes it difficult to understand the degree of welfare for different species. However, there is an increasing amount of academic initiatives and research in this area. Among the possibilities for improving this sector are:
A reduction in the number of steps that involve fish manipulation*
Avoid fish being exposed to the air during loading*
Change food deprivation before transport and adjust according to species, size and temperature *
Monitor water quality and the condition of the fish*
Invest in training programs at fish fairs
Invest in academic research on fish welfare
Increase the awareness in society about fish consumption from industrial fishing and fish farming
Call for the regulation and inspection of industrial fishing activity at a federal level
*Recommendations suggested by the European Food Safety Authority
Various food companies that use products of animal origin, such as eggs and pork, have made public commitments to adopt animal welfare measures in their production chain. See what these commitments are.