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SensoFiA - Animal welfare monitoring by aid of modern sensor techniques

Biochip-based technology can measure and standardize stress, health and animal welfare to further improve fish production in aquaculture.

An important part of the blue bioeconomy is to optimize animal welfare while improving the performance and product quality of fish in aquaculture.

In SensoFiA, tools, products and methods are being developed to directly monitor the health and stress response of fish in aquaculture. Massive advances in production performance and product quality are possible via improvements in fish welfare based on new valid stress detection methods in recirculating aquaculture systems (KLA) and net cages. SensoFia contributes to optimized production and sustainable utilization of aquatic biomass because animal-friendly fish production optimizes yields.

Animal welfare is also increasingly relevant for the end consumer. The intensive production of fish as a foodstuff in aquacultures in particular must therefore be constantly optimized at all process levels, right through to slaughter, in order to ensure safe, approvable and legally sound production.

Comprehensive innovative biomonitoring contributes to this.

Optimal animal husbandry results in an improvement of all performance-related parameters. In the case of Atlantic salmon aquaculture, the two-phase life cycle also plays a prominent role: while the juveniles are raised in land-based facilities (increasingly also KLA) until smoltification, the later life stages grow in net cages in the open sea or fjord. SensoFiA therefore focuses on the development of suitable measurement and analysis methods that are capable of correctly recording different influencing variables and their different time-limited duration and intensity of influence, and of issuing corresponding recommendations for action for aquaculture management that support the value-determining properties of the product and animal welfare as a whole.

Salmon aquaculture is a major contributor to the world production of farmed finfish, representing about US$10 billion annually. Other commonly cultured fish species include tilapia, catfish, sea bass, carp and bream. Salmon farming is significant in Chile, Norway, Scotland, Canada and the Faroe Islands; it is the source for most salmon consumed in the United States and Europe. Atlantic salmon are also, in very small volumes, farmed in Russia and Tasmania, Australia. Salmon are carnivorous, and need to be fed meals produced from catching other wild forage fish and other marine organisms. Salmon farming leads to a high demand for wild forage fish. As a predator, salmon require large nutritional intakes of protein, and farmed salmon consume more fish than they generate as a final product. On a dry weight basis, 2–4 kg of wild-caught fish are needed to produce one kilogram of salmon. As the salmon farming industry expands, it requires more forage fish for feed, at a time when 75% of the world's monitored fisheries are already near to or have exceeded their maximum sustainable yield. The industrial-scale extraction of wild forage fish for salmon farming affects the survivability of other wild predatory fish which rely on them for food. Work continues on substituting vegetable proteins for animal proteins in the salmon diet. This substitution results in lower levels of the highly valued omega-3 fatty acid content in the farmed product. Intensive salmon farming uses open-net cages, which have low production costs. It has the drawback of allowing disease and sea lice to spread to local wild salmon stocks. Another form of salmon production, which is safer but less controllable, is to raise salmon in hatcheries until they are old enough to become independent. They are released into rivers in an attempt to increase the salmon population. This system is referred to as ranching. It was very common in countries such as Sweden, before the Norwegians developed salmon farming, but is seldom done by private companies. As anyone may catch the salmon when they return to spawn, a company is limited in benefiting financially from their investment. Because of this, the ranching method has mainly been used by various public authorities and non-profit groups, such as the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, as a way to increase salmon populations in situations where they have declined due to overharvesting, construction of dams and habitat destruction or fragmentation. Negative consequences to this sort of population manipulation include genetic "dilution" of the wild stocks. Many jurisdictions are now beginning to discourage supplemental fish planting in favour of harvest controls, and habitat improvement and protection. A variant method of fish stocking, called ocean ranching, is under development in Alaska. There, the young salmon are released into the ocean far from any wild salmon streams. When it is time for them to spawn, they return to where they were released, where fishermen can catch them. An alternative method to hatcheries is to use spawning channels. These are artificial streams, usually parallel to an existing stream, with concrete or rip-rap sides and gravel bottoms. Water from the adjacent stream is piped into the top of the channel, sometimes via a header pond, to settle out sediment. Spawning success is often much better in channels than in adjacent streams due to the control of floods, which in some years can wash out the natural redds. Because of the lack of floods, spawning channels must sometimes be cleaned out to remove accumulated sediment. The same floods that destroy natural redds also clean the regular streams. Spawning channels preserve the natural selection of natural streams, as there is no benefit, as in hatcheries, to use prophylactic chemicals to control diseases. Farm-raised salmon are fed the carotenoids astaxanthin and canthaxanthin to match their flesh colour to wild salmon to improve their marketability. Wild salmon get these carotenoids, primarily astaxanthin, from eating shellfish and krill. One proposed alternative to the use of wild-caught fish as feed for the salmon, is the use of soy-based products. This should be better for the local environment of the fish farm, but producing soy beans has a high environmental cost for the producing region. The fish omega-3 fatty acid content would be reduced compared to fish-fed salmon. Another possible alternative is a yeast-based coproduct of bioethanol production, proteinaceous fermentation biomass. Substituting such products for engineered feed can result in equal (sometimes enhanced) growth in fish. With its increasing availability, this would address the problems of rising costs for buying hatchery fish feed. Yet another attractive alternative is the increased use of seaweed. Seaweed provides essential minerals and vitamins for growing organisms. It offers the advantage of providing natural amounts of dietary fiber and having a lower glycemic load than grain-based fish meal. In the best-case scenario, widespread use of seaweed could yield a future in aquaculture that eliminates the need for land, freshwater, or fertilizer to raise fish.

To the Wikipedia article Farmed Salmon

In close cooperation with the sister project BioFiA, an interdisciplinary knowledge gain on improved husbandry conditions for fish in aquacultures will be achieved.

Fraunhofer Unit for Marine and Cellular Biotechnology (EMB)


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