Foodservice businesses need to address fish welfare in their supply chain or face a consumer backlash, according to campaigners.
Up to three trillion fish are killed annually for human consumption or for fishmeal and fish oil as feed, compared to 74 billion land animals.
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) said the scale of fish suffering is “immense” and the industry “urgently needs to review and improve fish welfare practices during rearing and slaughter”.
More research is needed to identify a set of reliable positive welfare indicators that can be used to build production systems that promote positive experiences for farmed fish. However, stocking density in the fish cages should be set according to each breed, limiting overcrowding which causes injuries, CIWF said.
Humane methods of fish slaughter do exist. Tesco, for example, has introduced a humane slaughter system for sea bass and sea bream. Reducing stress before slaughter is more humane and has product quality benefits.
Tracey Jones, director of food business at CIWF said it is “inevitable” that consumer demand will push for change in fish welfare as it has done for other land animals.
“Businesses must start addressing the issues now, by shoring up their supplier policies to include humane slaughter practices and ensure good welfare for all farmed fish throughout life. Don’t think this action can wait – act now.”