W. Abbink1*, G. Lembo2, A. Jokumsen3, M.T. Spedicato2, Å.M. Espmark4, B.S. Sæther4, C. Noble4, A. Manfrin5, E. Fiocchi5, Z. Adámek6, H. Röcklingsberg7, I. Olesen4
1DLO-IMARES, 4400AB Yerseke, The Netherlands, 2COISPA, 70045 Bari, Italy, 3DTU, 9850 Hirtshals, Denmark 4Nofima AS, 9291 Tromsø, Norway; 4COISPA, 70045 Bari, Italy, 5IZSVe, 35020 Legnaro, Italy, 6USB, 37005 Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic, 7SLU, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden.


The overall vision of the EU project OrAqua, is economic growth of the organic aquaculture sector in Europe, supported by science based regulations in line with the organic principles and consumer confidence. As part of OrAqua, a literature review assessing existing knowledge on fish was carried out, covering the following main topics: 1) nutrition, feeding, seeds, 2) health and welfare, veterinary treatments and biosecurity, 3) production systems, and 4) environmental impacts related to organic aquaculture. A second review assessed socio-economic and aquaculture economic interactions, consumer aspects, legislations and private standards for organic aquaculture. To ensure proper input and feedback from stakeholders, a series of three stakeholder meetings was and will be organised within the scope of OrAqua. This particular presentation will discuss the relation between current organic regulations from the EU and scientific knowledge of different welfare issues; husbandry, water quality, light and photoperiod, stocking density, transport, slaughter and health and veterinary treatment.

EU regulations

The organic production should meet animals' species-specific behavioural needs. This concept is expressed repeatedly in the Commission Regulation (EC) 834/2007, in order to emphasize the different ways in which it is taken into account the fish welfare. Specifically, within the Reg. (EC) 834/2007 it is worth to mention: Recital 17: "Organic stock farming should respect high animal welfare standards and meet animals' species-specific behavioural needs while animal-health management should be based on disease prevention. In this respect, particular attention should be paid to housing conditions, husbandry practices and stocking densities. Moreover, the choice of breeds should take account of their capacity to adapt to local conditions. The implementing rules for livestock production and aquaculture production should at least ensure compliance with the provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming purposes and the subsequent recommendations by its standing committee".

Among farmers, there is growing awareness that good welfare equates to increased success of production activities. Indeed, from a practical point of view, production efficiency, quality and quantity are often coupled with good welfare. Additionally, the public is increasingly concerned about the welfare of farmed fish, highlighting the ethical significance of fish welfare (Ashley 2007). As a result, fish welfare has become a growing area of research in an attempt to develop husbandry techniques that promote welfare in farmed fish (Huntingford and Kadri 2009).


Animal welfare is generally referred to as the physical and mental state of the animal interacting with its environment and associated variations (Chandroo et al. 2004). In addition, it is increasingly clear that individual differences in stress reactions have to be included in the concept of animal welfare. Such differences often take the form of stress coping styles, where traits such as sympathetic reactivity, aggression, the tendency to follow and development of routines are interconnected.

In aquaculture, fish are exposed to a range of industry practices that may act as chronic stressors, which potentially compromise welfare. The effects of a wide range of aquaculture practices on the stress physiology of fish are well documented, and have been reviewed by Conte (2004) and Pickering (1993). Some of these practices include frequent handling, transport, periods of food deprivation, deteriorating water quality, and sub-optimal stocking densities and social environments (Huntingford et al. 2006). A challenge for organic farming is to live up to the high organic principles on fish welfare and maintain production levels.

This work has been funded under the EU seventh Framework Programme by the OrAqua project N°613547: European Organic Aquaculture - Science based recommendations for further development of the EU regulatory framework and to underpin future growth in the sector. The views expressed in this work are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessary reflect the views of the European Commission.


Ashley P. J. 2007. Fish welfare: Current issues in aquaculture. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 104 (3-4): 199-235.

Commission Regulation (EC) 834/2007.

Chandroo K. P., I. J. H. Duncan, and R. D. Moccia. 2004. Can fish suffer?: perspectives on sentience, pain, fear and stress. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 86 (3-4): 225-250.

Conte F. S. 2004. Stress and the welfare of cultured fish. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 86 (3-4): 205-223.

Huntingford F.A., and S. Kadri. 2009. Taking account of fish welfare: lessons from aquaculture. Journal of Fish Biology 75: 2862-2867.

Huntingford F.A., C. Adams, V. A. Braithwaite, S. Kadri, T. G. Pottinger, and P. Sandøe and J. F. Turnbull. 2006. Current issues in fish welfare. Journal of Fish Biology 68: 332-372.

Pickering A.D. 1993. Growth and stress in fish production. Aquaculture 111 (1-4): 51-63.