The work “Environmental enrichment in fish aquaculture: A review of fundamental and practical aspects” is a critical review of “all the scientific literature published so far” on environmental enrichment in fish, one of the four authors of the published study told Lusa in Reviews in Aqualcuture, together with Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, Maria Cabrera-Álvarez and Caroline Maia.
“The guide is a call to attention for the industry, but also for policy makers as it provides tools for decision makers and for those who want to implement policies to improve the well-being of fish in aquaculture and laboratory”, he added.
According to the founder of a research group on ethology and animal welfare, if a company or a laboratory wants to start environmental enrichment, it can follow the “step by step” guide as it also indicates how these measures “can be validated”.
The biologist revealed that the review contains "a lot of data" on enrichment for sea bream, salmon and trout, among others, but serves as a "decision-making guide", namely on "how these measures can be implemented".
Environmental enrichment consists of increasing the complexity of the growing medium to improve the welfare of captive animals. With these strategies, the tanks and cages are able to mimic the environment that the fish find in their natural environment – and the gains in terms of production can be surprising.
On the other hand, environmental poverty not only diminishes animal welfare, it can also be responsible for considerable “production losses” in an industry that has been growing globally in recent years, he pointed out.
João Saraiva stated that fish that live in “more appropriate environments have less disease and are better resistant to disease” and highlighted a recent study that shows how the use of antibiotics and chemical treatments can be “reduced” by “just improving “their environment through of environmental enrichment.
At the moment there are companies that are already betting on enrichment, and there are certifications in the implementation phase of environmental well-being measures, which already require environmental enrichment, stating João Saraiva that they are a way to "improve" the product, its "quality" and “increase company profits”, he concluded.
Recent studies show that fish are sensitive animals endowed with sentience, that is, they are able to feel emotional states in response to their surroundings, however, the tanks and cages used to cultivate fish are not designed to meet their needs. basic in terms of well-being, being often completely devoid of elements present in natural habitats.