Startdate of project: March 1. 2004
Project ended: December 2008
Duration: 3 years
Project coordinator: Geir Lasse Taranger
Project coordinator organisation: Institute of Marine Research
Reports: Wealth final report 17.04.08 (pdf)
Wealth dissemination 18.04.08 (pdf)
Policy implementation plan (pdf)

Welfare and health in sustainable aquaculture

Wealt leaflet 
Welfare and health in sustainable aquaculture

The WEALTH project will enable us to give better advices on “Good Aquaculture Practises” to ensure better welfare and health of farmed fish.

Despite the development of more efficient diagnosis, sanitary controls and preventive methods such as vaccination, losses due to infectious diseases still remain as problems for the European aquaculture industry. In addition to the economic loss for the farmers, this also represents a major welfare issue.

Limited knowledge

It is generally believed that chronic stress, sub-optimal rearing conditions and stressful husbandry procedures lead to compromised immune function in fish, and may ultimately lead to outbreak of infectious diseases. However, there is limited knowledge on how stress affects the immune function, the mechanisms that are involved, and what level of stress that can be tolerated by the fish before the immune function and resistance to infectious diseases are negatively affected.

Farmed fish are exposed to a range of potential stressful conditions e.g. related to water quality such as low oxygen, and high ammonia and CO2 levels, often in combination with high fish stocking densities. However, the precise effects of these stressors are often not known for each species, which make it difficult to give advice on safe levels, and best practices.

Funding and experiments

The WEALTH project has been established with funding from EU to address these problems in Atlantic salmon and sea bass, involving 12 different European research laboratories and several fish farming companies. A range of experiments has been conducted in flow-trough tanks, recirculation tanks and sea cages to monitor impact of different stocking densities, husbandry practises, and water qualities. This covers two main approaches:

  1. To identify limiting factors and husbandry practises with adverse negative effects on health and welfare by assessing behaviour, growth rate, feed conversion rate, fin damages and histopatological changes in various production systems, and to monitor the immune competence by challenging fish by virus or bacteria following long-term exposure to such conditions.
  2. To monitor a range of physiological, immunological and molecular parameters following various chronic stress exposures to elucidate the links between physiological stress, immune function and resistance to diseases, in order to develop new prognostic tools, that in turn, can be used to monitor health and welfare in fish under different farming conditions.

The combined knowledge generated by these approaches will enable us to give better advices on “Good Aquaculture Practises” to ensure better welfare and health of farmed fish.