FISH WELFARE AND
THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
In 2015, the United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the aim of creating a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world by 2030. Lynch et al. (2020) recently highlighted the importance of aquaculture for achieving many of these goals.
The SDGs can only be achieved if fish welfare becomes an integral part of aquaculture operations worldwide.
Aquaculture and fisheries currently provide livelihoods for 250 million people worldwide, and employment for millions more. By improving welfare, farmers increase fish health and thus create a more ethical and profitable basis for their income.
Aquaculture significantly contributes both to global nutrition and basic income, particularly in developing countries. Fish welfare decreases mortality rates and minimizes ecosystem degradation, ensuring effective farming operations.
Good Health and Well-Being
Fish is currently the primary protein source for millions of people, especially in developing countries. Higher welfare decreases bacterial spread and reduces post-mortem infections. Fish are less stressed and have fewer diseases, which ultimately ensures food safety.
Clean Water and Sanitation
Aquaculture wastewater can contain toxic residue from fish feed and antimicrobials. Increasing fish welfare improves feed uptake, and less feed ends up in the wastewater. Higher welfare standards also decrease disease susceptibility and reduce the need for antimicrobials that diffuse into the wastewater.
Responsible Consumption and Production
Higher welfare reduces our ecological footprint by improving the way we farm fish. Encouraging producers to increase welfare minimizes feed demand, increases survival rates, and reduces waste production.
Life Below Water
More efficient production allows aquatic systems to maintain their natural balance. Reduced waste generation (e.g. ammonia) from mariculture farms prevents events that threaten aquatic life, such as harmful algae blooms. Additionally, higher fish welfare decreases disease and parasite transmission between wild and farmed fish.
Life On Land
Increasing welfare reduces disease susceptibility and the use of antimicrobials. Antimicrobials may end up in the environment with farms’ wastewater. If wild animals surrounding the farm ingest these antimicrobials, they may build up antimicrobial resistance, increasing the risk of spreading antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to farmed animals.
Partnerships for the Goals
Work on fish welfare involves international stakeholders from various sectors, including academia, advocacy, industry, and government. In working to improve fish welfare, we promote sustainability, economic stability, food safety and security, and more humane treatment of farmed animals.