Best Aquaculture Practices failing to improve farmed fish welfare
Compassion in World Farming has today called out the seafood certification scheme Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) for failing to improve the welfare of the hundreds of millions of farmed fish it certifies every year.
BAP, which is administered by Global Seafood Alliance, was chosen as the focus for the campaign as they have done the least to improve farmed fish welfare out of the four biggest global fish certification schemes in the last three years. The scheme certifies seafood that is sold all over the world, including in the UK.
In 2020, the animal welfare and environmental NGO launched a global campaign urging the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), Friend of the Sea (FOS) and GLOBAL G.A.P to introduce or improve on their welfare standards for farmed fish.
Since then, all have made some efforts to improve farmed fish welfare. The US-based BAP is the only one of these schemes to have made no significant welfare improvements at all for the up to 500 million farmed fish they certify.
Compassion in World Farming says poor animal welfare not only leads to fish suffering but also greater environmental damage and is calling for the following fish welfare improvements:
- Mandatory species-specific stocking densities based on scientific and welfare evidence. Very high stocking densities lead to an increased susceptibility to disease, physical injuries, and stress, and reduced growth and water quality.
- A ban on the routine use of antibiotics as this contributes to antibiotic resistance issues.
- A ban on the killing of predators such as seabirds and marine mammals.
- Mandatory species-specific limits to fasting periods. Currently, farms can decide how long fish should fast before being transported or slaughtered in order to clear the gut so that less waste excreted into the water. BAP should establish time limits to ensure fish are not fasted for any longer than is absolutely necessary.
- Appropriate environmental enrichments for each species, such as shelters, hanging ropes, rods or kelp which crates curtains, to meet the behavioural needs of fish.
- A reduction/ban on wild-caught fish as feed. The use of fishmeal and oil (FMFO) from wild caught fish for aquaculture feeds contributes to overfishing of wild populations and has welfare implications. Fish caught from the wild suffer immensely during the processes of catching, landing, and killing. A significant proportion will die, crushed under the weight of other fish in the nets, while fish that survive capture and landing, will be simply left to asphyxiate, or may die during processing.
- Mandatory species-specific humane slaughter methods to ensure all species have a quick and pain-free death.
A YouGov survey carried out in 2020 found that 57% of British participants were confused by these labels and more than 70% found it unacceptable that the schemes allow local wildlife to be harmed, fish to be starved for unnecessary lengths of time, and painful slaughter.
Krzysztof Wojtas, Head of Fish Policy at Compassion in World Farming, said: “While other certification schemes, such as Friend of the Sea (FOS), have made some efforts to improve their welfare standards for farmed fish, BAP has made no meaningful progress for fish welfare in years. The company describes its products as ‘safe, responsible and ethical’ while allowing overcrowding of fish in barren tanks or sea cages and not prohibiting inhumane slaughter methods. They also allow the killing of predators such as seabirds and marine mammals.”
“We know that consumers support higher welfare and there’s an expectation of good animal welfare standards when people buy certified fish. Sadly, that’s not the case with BAP and we’re therefore urging people to contact BAP, using their online form and social media channels, and demand that they improve their welfare standards to ensure a better quality of life for the hundreds of millions of fish they certify. And we will be keeping the pressure on BAP until they agree to give their farmed fish lives worth living.”
In January, the NGO launched a new report at the European Parliament, Rethinking Aquaculture: for people, animals and the planet. The report is the first to draw together the sustainability and environmental issues caused by intensive EU fish farming, the need to move away from this type of production to improve animal welfare and create a more sustainable industry, and to give clear policy solutions for legislators. It also highlighted the urgent need for the EU to introduce fish welfare legislation as part of its current review of animal welfare.
The report shows that as many as 1.2 billion fish are farmed every year in the EU without adequate protection. To maximise profit, they are commonly reared intensively at high stocking densities and are often killed inhumanely without prior stunning. It also shows how improving the welfare of farmed fish and farming lower in the food chain is key to making European aquaculture more sustainable.
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Notes to Editors
1. Compassion in World Farming was founded in 1967 by a British dairy farmer who became horrified at the development of intensive factory farming. Today Compassion is the leading farm animal welfare organisation dedicated to ending factory farming and achieving humane and sustainable food. With headquarters in the UK, we have offices across Europe, in the US, China and South Africa.
2. For details of BAP product suppliers visit the BAP website.
3. See official YouGov poll results here.
4. See BAP online form here.
5. Read more about our Rethink Fish campaign.