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Animal Equality Joins the Aquatic Animal Alliance

fish welfare experts and advocates from nonprofits around the world.
December 9, 2020

This summer, Animal Equality became a core member of the Aquatic Animal Alliance (AAA), an international coalition of fish welfare experts and advocates from nonprofits around the world focused on improving and protecting the lives of fish and other aquatic animals.

FISH DESERVE PROTECTION: Despite the fact that fish can feel pain and sheer number of animals impacted by the aquaculture (fish farming) and fishing industries, aquatic species have been historically neglected within the animal protection movement. This neglect is explained in part by a lack of scientific understanding of aquatic species’ physical needs and cognitive capacities. Thankfully the science has been catching up in recent years, and species-specific welfare experts now exist to guide our advocacy. This is absolutely critical and not a moment too soon, since an estimated 1 to 3 trillion individual aquatic animals are killed each year for human use. (And this number does not include illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, nor discarded animals.)

WHAT THE COALITION HAS BEEN UP TO: In the months since launching the coalition, AAA has been focusing its efforts on getting animal welfare considerations incorporated into various seafood certification schemes. Such certifications were initially developed in response to concerns about the environmental impact and sustainability of aquaculture and fisheries. As such, these certifications have focused almost exclusively on these sustainability issues, giving little thought to welfare of the individual animals. While environmental sustainability is undoubtedly an important issue, the Alliance feels these certifications are missing a key opportunity to consider individual animal welfare—considerations that could improve the lives of literally trillions of individuals.

FISH HAVE FEELINGS AND NEED TO BE CONSIDERED: Over the past several months, AAA has drafted and submitted feedback on several separate certification schemes, including those administered by the Global Aquaculture Alliance, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and the Marine Stewardship Council. Our feedback urges these various certifying bodies to include specific animal welfare criteria in their revised certification standards.

IMPROVING THE LIVES OF FARMED FISH: In the aquaculture context, AAA has identified environmental enrichment and feed composition as being the most meaningful, impactful, and feasible areas of intervention for animal welfare that certifiers could incorporate into their certification standards. Our methodology in reaching this conclusion used an effective altruism analysis. In addition to these two areas of concern, AAA also opined on improved criteria for measuring welfare in relation to fish transportation, handling, confinement, stocking density, water quality, and stunning/slaughter methods.

PROTECTING WILD-CAUGHT FISH: In the context of wild-capture fisheries, our main welfare concerns relate to method and duration of capture, as well as how the fish are killed on board the fishing vessels. The use of live bait fish is also a significant concern, and we have urged wild-caught certifiers such as the Marine Stewardship Council to include a ban on use of live bait fish as a requirement for certification.

The AAA has plans to expand its advocacy beyond the current focus on certification schemes in 2021. Stay tuned to see what we accomplish together!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: While improving standards for fisheries and fish farms is a step in the right direction, the most important thing you can do to help aquatic animals is to simply leave them off your plate.

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