Today (4th March), we 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 is one of the four biggest global fish certification schemes. It certifies seafood sold all over the world, including in the UK.
In 2020, we launched a global campaign urging four major fish label schemes, including BAP, to introduce or improve their welfare standards for farmed fish and some have since demonstrated progress in the right direction. However, 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.
Fish labelling improvements
Poor animal welfare not only causes fish suffering but is also a significant contributor to environmental damage.
We’re 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. Its overuse causes antibiotic resistance, which can have devastating consequences for animal and human health
- 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 is excreted into the water. BAP should establish time limits to ensure fish do not fast for any longer than is absolutely necessary
- Appropriate environmental enrichments for each species, such as shelters, hanging ropes, rods or kelp which creates 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
Concern among consumers
According to a 2020 You Gov 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, our Head of Fish Policy, 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, we launched a new report at the European Parliament, Rethinking EU Aquaculture: for people, animals and the planet. The report is the first to draw together the animal welfare, sustainability and environmental issues caused by intensive EU fish farming.
The report lays out the need for a transition away from intensive fish farming to a more humane and sustainable approach to fish production that prioritises animal welfare, while providing clear policy solutions for legislators. By urging for the introduction of fish welfare legislation as part of the EU’s current review of animal welfare, we highlight the urgent need to protect the welfare of the 1.2 billion fish that are farmed every year in the EU without adequate protection.