The Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance (Dyrevernalliansen) is funding a new project at our facility

Dr. Romain Fontaine and Dr. Arturas Kavaliauskis, both affiliated with FISH-VET, have secured funding from The Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance (Dyrevernalliansen). The primary objective of their research project is to delve into the intricate role of various environmental factors in order to pinpoint those conducive to producing animals with enhanced health and welfare.

In the realm of both research and aquaculture, where the use of fish is on a steady rise, there exists a pressing demand to revolutionize existing procedures. The goal is clear: to elevate the health and well-being, or welfare, of captive fish. That is what Dyrevernalliansen is trying to achieve through their research fund call. Given the invaluable contributions of fish to both research and aquaculture, a moral imperative emerges—a duty to enact changes that prioritize their welfare. Yet, bridging this gap proves challenging. Established production procedures, like environmental enrichment, known for enhancing fish welfare, face resistance. Hatchery managers find them expensive and unpopular. The dilemma lies in the fact that, while society benefits significantly from fish in these domains, the path to better welfare is hindered by economic and logistical concerns.

To truly enhance fish welfare in aquaculture and scientific research, a paradigm shift is essential. We must pioneer cost-effective production strategies that seamlessly integrate with existing practices without compromising crucial production traits, like growth and reproduction, especially in model fish. This need is particularly pronounced in commercial aquaculture, including the intricate landscape of salmon farming.

In this pursuit, the challenge is clear—any implementation favoring fish health and welfare but adversely affecting productivity would face staunch resistance from the industry. The economic model underpinning their operations could be at stake. Hence, the crux of the matter lies in discovering innovative hatchery procedures that not only benefit fish health and welfare but, crucially, do so without casting a shadow on growth. The call is for solutions that not only maintain the delicate balance but, ideally, amplify positive impacts on fish growth—a transformative approach that aligns ecological consciousness with economic sustainability.

Our innovative project thus extends its focus beyond salmon, also encompassing small model fish, such as zebrafish and medaka. The overarching goal is to furnish valuable insights for refining maintenance protocols in production units, ultimately contributing to the advancement of fish health and welfare standards, both in fish farms and in research fish laboratories.

It is noteworthy that this research distinguishes itself by adopting a compassionate approach which matches Dyrevernalliansen funding requirements. No fish will be sacrificed during the course of the project, as only non-invasive methods will be employed to assess the health and welfare of the aquatic subjects. This commitment to ethical practices underscores the dedication of Dr. Fontaine and Dr. Kavaliauskis to advancing scientific knowledge while prioritizing the well-being of the animals involved.

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