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European Federation assures “there can be no fish farming without fish welfare”

European Federation assures “there can be no fish farming without fish welfare”

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The Federation of European Aquaculture Producers (FEAP), based in Brussels, Belgium, issued a statement a few days ago in which it assures that, “the viability of the activity depends on the quality of our products, which is directly affected by the conditions of production and animal welfare. Therefore, there can be no fish farming without good fish welfare”.

“FEAP strives to strengthen the necessary compliance and proactivity of European fish farmers in providing the best production conditions and welfare for the fish. However, we wish to address concerns raised by negative communication campaigns that undermine the significant efforts made by European fish farmers in this regard.”

FEAP represents 24 national aquaculture associations from 23 countries dedicated to the farming of species such as Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, sea bass, sea bream, sea bream, carp, turbot, cod, sturgeon, sea bass and others, through a wide variety of farming systems.

Vital importance

FEAP assures is deeply committed to the well-being of the species under our care. “We recognize the vital importance of promoting fish welfare and continually strive to ensure the highest standards in our industry,” they said.

“We invest in scientific research, technology, training, and innovation to learn more about the specific behavior and needs of the various species and thus daily improve the conditions in which they are raised. This includes continually monitoring the production environment, assuring the best water quality, and making nutrition and disease management key, as well as minimizing stress and ensuring respectful handling,” they added.

According to them, European fish farming complies with applicable legal obligations and adheres to stringent regulations and standards designed to safeguard the welfare of the fish.

Communicating the efforts

For them, while very isolated cases of poor welfare practices might be observed in a sector that comprises tens of thousands of fish farming undertakings and a complex value chain, “these do not reflect in any way the general practice, nor the overall commitment of European fish farmers to the well-being of their fish.”

Also, they assured FEAP is firmly convinced that constructive collaboration between the fish farmers sector and NGOs can lead to valuable insights and contribute to the sustainable development of fish farming in Europe. “On this note, we invite stakeholders to engage with us in an honest and constructive dialogue to address any concerns and collectively work towards even higher standards in fish welfare.”

Nine points

The FEAP spoke about its position in nine points, which the first one is “fish are not a single species but many and with considerable biological differences between them, including on welfare needs”. Furthermore, fish farming in Europe is a very diverse activity taking place both in marine and fresh waters and using such different production systems as tanks, ponds, and sea pens. 

The second point is that FEAP promotes a holistic approach to fish welfare in which specific welfare issues must be considered alongside the limitations of the physical farming environment, workers’ safety, environmental protection, product quality, and economic viability. The third point, “European fish farmers strictly follow rules and regulations on health and animal welfare that apply to fish.”

The fourth point say that FEAP understands that good practices at the farm level are key to ensuring the adequate welfare of fish and, for this reason, promotes their uptake within the sector. And the fifth, the farming of most fish species is a young activity when compared to other livestock production. For this reason, even today important gaps exist in scientific knowledge on this matter.

In the sixth, meanwhile, FEAP considers that when addressing fish welfare, the whole production cycle of the fish has to be addressed. In the seventh, the Federation recognizes the importance of adequate training for fish farm workers on this issue. In the eighth point FEAP wishes to highlight that fish welfare should not contribute towards the un-level market playing field with respect to other fish products, both imported into Europe or caught by fishing fleets.

Finally, in the last point, the entity assures that the FEAP understands the relevance of communication to make society aware of how European farmed fish are treated. “However, FEAP expresses concern with the misleading nature of several communication actions on fish welfare which have recently appeared in the media, and remains open and available to inform the press and the general public about the reality and efforts of fish farmers in Europe.”

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