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SUSTAINABILITY LIBRARY 2023 Fish health and fish welfare Fish health and fish welfare

Fish health and fish welfare

For the Group, fish welfare involves protecting fish against unnecessary stress and impact.

Challenges

Farming fish entails responsibility for ensuring that the fish have the best possible conditions. The challenge is to provide for the best possible way to protect and ensure fish health and welfare. The most significant challenges in recent years have been injuries from sea lice treatments, Cardiomyopathy syndrome, bacterial diseases and gill disease.

Impacts: 

If Lerøy's operations are not sound, this could affect our fish's welfare and species diversity directly. In the extreme, this could give our company financial fines, reduced income and lack of capital as well as lost reputation. Without proper management, there will also be a risk of affecting species diversity in Norwegian rivers where wild salmon spawn, as well as welfare challenges for fish in aquaculture. If we use antibiotics irresponsibly, there could be a risk of intolerance to antibiotics for the people who handle these substances without proper training.

Our ambitions in this area

We want the fish in our cages to thrive and aim to protect them as much as possible against unnecessary impact and stress. We care about our fish, and willingly accept the ethical responsibilities inherent in farming fish. Our ambitions are also to make use of procedures to standardise the processes to which the fish are subjected, and to update and implement these as soon as we gain new knowledge. As such, the entire organisation has rapid and efficient access to new knowledge.

Main goals
  • Work for a better survival rate after transfer to salmon production sites.
  • No disease and good fish welfare

Health

The key objective regarding fish health is to make sure that as many fish survive until slaughter.

Measures to improve fish health include:

  • Selective breeding programmes
  • Screening of brood stock
  • Risk assessment and biosafety
  • Vaccination against a variety of bacterial and viral agents
  • Early diagnosis and treatment
  • Use of functional feeds

Welfare

The Group are working to fulfil the 5 aspects of animal welfare, commonly known as the “Five Freedoms”, for all our fish.

Our fish welfare initiatives are comprehensive and cover every part of our farming value chain.

Mandatory fish welfare training for all staff comprise legislation, animal welfare, fish health biology, stress, sedation and euthanasia. Other topics covered are natural behaviour, environmental requirements, water quality and physiology. Based on this knowledge, staff are also trained in internal fish handling protocols and policies.

Welfare indicators are used throughout the production cycle. At harvest stations, welfare indicators are used to monitor the fish prior to, and after stunning and bleeding. All our harvest stations use either electrical or percussive stunning for anaesthesia. This procedure is then followed by bleeding the fish. Bleeding is performed either manually or robotic. Indicators such as eye reflex and operculum movements are monitored and recorded daily. The effect of anaesthesia and bleeding is monitored, and in case of insufficient effect, a reserve system is used.

In case of loss of power, an emergency power supply will help evacuating the fish from the rig.

In case of the need to euthanize fish on the farming site, the fish is anaesthetized with an approved anaesthetic or by percussion followed by bleeding out. Farm personnel are trained in fish welfare at least every 5 years. In addition, they are guided by fish health professionals, who visit the farm at least monthly.

During transportation of fish in well boats, there is implemented a risk-based water quality monitoring and control program. This continuous monitoring includes parameters such as temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH. Limit values are set according to duration of transport, density in tanks and size of the fish.

During recent years, increased use of camera technology in our pens has given us the ability to monitor a range of observable welfare metrics on a daily basis. The metrics are based on the Fishwell standard, and include scores on skin health, deformities, fin damages, eye status and maturation.

How we work in the area

Throughout the year, we have meetings, email correspondence and conversations with various stakeholders where we have presentations and discussions related to the areas where we have or can have a potential impact. We also attend conferences and meetings where we meet and discuss. Through this form of dialogue, we gain insight into what stakeholders are concerned with and feedback on what they think about the way we work, measures we have initiated and what they think we should focus on going forward. Through various forms of benchmark surveys, we also receive feedback on what stakeholders think about our measures and their implementation. The Group strive to minimize handling operations of live fish. As little handling as possible improves fish health and welfare, which is an important objective for the Group.

We use procedures as management tools for our production. The procedures help us to standardize events at each life stage, and they are updated as soon as we gain new knowledge regarding fish welfare. In this way, the entire organization acquires the new knowledge quickly and efficiently.

Smolt production

Pumps, transportation pipes, sorting equipment and vaccination equipment are checked at regular intervals and any damage or defects are repaired before use.

During major operations such as vaccination and sorting, the fish is checked for any damage at regular intervals to detect any defects of equipment.

All components used during sea transfer are checked regularly. If situations arise where an increased incidence of mechanically inflicted damage is registered, delivery is stopped until the cause of the damage has been investigated and corrected.

On-growing phase

During sea transfer, dead fish are controlled for mechanical damage that may have been inflicted during transport. If it turns out that there is presence of mechanically inflicted wounds, a thorough review of the delivery process will be taken.

When fish are crowded during various forms of handling, we have our own handling procedures describing how this is to be carried out to ensure fish welfare.

In all non-medical lice treatments, welfare screening of the fish is performed before and after treatment. In this way, we have documentation of the impacts for the fish, and whether measures may need to be taken to reduce negative consequences.

Zone Cooperation 100%

All of our on-growing sites take part in a zone-based cooperation with other farmers. In all regions where the Group has operations, fallowing, washing/disinfection and restocking are coordinated in zones every second year. This cooperation also involves coordination of operations, collaboration relating to lice, disease management and other issues where the solution to the problem requires a joint, coordinated effort.

Disease Management

Disease management is of essential importance for all animal farming. Within the Group, disease management is based on a preventive operational practice, where the primary goal is to prevent problems before they occur.

Our work on disease management is based on recognized principles. These are in turn based on biological know-how and attitudes, in which training for our employees and a live internal control system lay the foundations for operations. 

Disease prevention and management are monitored by fish health professionals (authorized animal health personnel), who also play key roles related to Lerøy's continuous learning and development of best operational practice.

We aim to farm fish under production conditions that safeguard the biological requirements of all species. Density and water quality parameters, such as temperature, salinity and oxygen shall be adapted to the requirements for fish at different life stages. We operate a specific vaccination program and vaccinate all our farmed fish before sea transfer.

The main target for fish health and welfare is to increase fish survival rates throughout the production value chain. All employees involved in handling live fish undergo training focusing on fish welfare.

Fish welfare is developed and monitored by keeping use of medicines to a minimum, with careful assessment of use, using only approved medicines which have documented environmental impact in accordance with the requirements of The Norwegian Medicines Agency, monitoring and documenting tolerance, and following up biological feed factors if administered by feed.

Use Of Medication

Medication is used only when this is deemed appropriate and necessary.

We exclusively make use of licensed products, and all medicine prescriptions are issued by authorized animal health personnel. Lerøy Seafood Group currently employs over 20 fish health professionals (authorized animal health personnel).

Policy: Use of medication

Cleaner Fish

The company is supplied with self-produced lumpfish. This ensures predictability for deliveries and enables us to control targeted improvement measures, aiming to ensure predictability and biological improvements within the production.

In some regions, The Group also make use of wild-caught wrasse species. Fishing quotas of wild-caught wrasse species are regulated by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries. The Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) states that fisheries of wild-caught wrasse species are sustainable.

Welfare for cleaner fish has been debated, and we acknowledge that there are challenges involved in the use of cleaner fish in salmon farming. However, we experience that our targeted measures listed further down are moving us in the right direction regarding health and welfare of the cleaner fish.

Our onshore production facilities for cleaner fish have over the years implemented measures within operations and biosafety, providing significant improvements to both health and welfare.

These measures encompass a wide range and comprise of:

  • Pathogen screening and selection of parent fish
  • Vaccination of all fish
  • Value chain regionalisation
  • Providing optimal environmental conditions
  • Providing customized feed
  • Improvements within logistics, transport and handling
  • General biosafety measures such as input water disinfection, hygiene zones in time and space

After vaccination and immunization in onshore production facilities, the farmed cleaner fish are transferred to the salmon farming sites at sea. Here they perform their function by eating sea lice. In the pens at sea, cleaner fish are provided with artificial kelp for resting, and they are supplied with customized feed on a daily basis. Despite, we experience mortalities above expected levels at times. The causes of terminal losses during the sea water phase are dominated by bacterial diseases.

Measures to improve health and welfare are: 

  • Dedicated personnel that provide daily care specific for the cleaner fish
  • Facilitate natural behaviour by providing a customized habitat (artificial kelp)
  • Offer a feed that is adapted to the different species
  • Stimulate good health condition by preventive measures
  • Perform health and welfare controls based on industry standards (e.g. vaccination)
  • Additionally, we aim to not use more cleaner fish than necessary for lice management.
  • We provide at least monthly health assessment, performed by authorised animal health personnel.

Over the years, we have participated in several collaborative projects with research institutes aimed at improving health and welfare of cleaner fish

When the salmon is harvested, remining cleaner fish are anesthetized and euthanized either at the site or at the harvest station.

Policy: Cleaner fish

How we measure our impact

On a daily basis, all facilities electronically register the number of dead fish and the likely cause of death. Dead fish are collected and delivered for silage, which in turn is included in animal feed for other species.

We calculate a fish welfare score before and after treatment for all non-medicinal delousing. This provides us with documentation of the scope of the impact, and whether we have to take action to reduce the negative consequences.

When using de-lice agents and other drugs, there are strict routines for how these should be handled. Personnel who will handle the funds have received training in how to handle the substances.

The fish are monitored throughout every part of the slaughter process by personnel who have received the obligatory training in fish welfare. All fish are anaesthetised before slaughter, either by electric shock or a blow to the head. The system and method for slaughter require the follow-up of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. Every day before starting slaughter procedures, the fish are checked and logged to verify a sufficient level of anaesthetisation.

Targets and results

Target 2023: Survival in sea, last 12 months according to GSI: 94,5% 

Result 2022: 92,5 %

This is mainly due to challenges involving stress and injury of treatment/handling, bacterial and viral disease and wounds.

 

What action has been taken

The Group have many ongoing projects and initiatives aiming to improve health and welfare of our fish, and thus increasing survival rates. Examples of recent measures implemented to reduce mortality:

  • Risk analysis and management of time of sea transfer
  • Testing of new vaccines against bacterial wounds
  • Use of functional feeds to improve wound healing
  • Several improvements in onshore production to ensure a more robust smolt
  • Investments in post-smolt facilities (RAS) to reduce production time at sea

We make use of procedures as governance tools for production. These procedures help us standardise the processes to which the fish are subjected, and they are updated as soon as we obtain new knowledge that has to be taken into account. As such, the entire organisation has rapid and efficient access to new knowledge.

R&D Projects Within Fish Welfare and Farming

The group participates in many different research projects in order to be at the forefront in terms of the best possible fish health and to implement new technology and expertise as soon as possible.

The various projects can be roughly divided into 3 different areas:

  • Sea lice management
  • Vaccines and functional feeds
  • Risk management, biosecurity and production improvements

Most of our ongoing projects fall into one of these groups.

A number of projects have been implemented to improve fish health and fish welfare. These include:

 

  • Feed ingredients and resistance to CMS: Aims to investigate if use of specific feed ingredients can improve survival and growth after CMS diagnosis.
  • Lerøy internal wound projects: Different projects that aim to reduce prevalence of bacterial wound-infections. In recent years, several projects has been carried out to identify risk factors for wound development on both large fish and fish recently released to sea.
  • Vaccine trials: Contribute to development of new and more effective vaccines.
  • R&D license and Prolaks project: Aims to map effect of post smolt size on health, welfare and performance.
  • FHF 901736 – Knowledge base of biological relevant welfare indicators for salmon in aquaculture (BIORELEVANS): Aims to provide necessary biological knowledge for establishing health- and welfare data from automatic scanning. Establish limits for when different indicators reflect a normal situation.
  • FHF 901434 - Tenacibaculum spp. Project: Aims to increase knowledge of tenacibaculosis, identify risk factors of disease, describe toxin production and perform trials with use of toxins as antigens in vaccines.
  • Lerøy internal robust smolt project: Aims to find the causes of why some smolts develop poorly after sea transfer.
  • FHF 901680 Pasteurellosis in Norwegian salmon: Characterizing, epidemiology and dynamics of pathogen transmission.
  • Prevention of salmon associated Pasteurella project: Aims to find effective preventive treatment against Pasteurella.
  • Pathogen project: Aims to map infection pressure of a number of pathogens during the production cycle, including finding risk levels for transmission of disease by vectors.
  • Welfare project: Aims to map fish welfare related to different “non-medicinal” treatments.
  • Lerøy internal project: Aims to increase survival rate and robustness of fish in smolt production.
  • Lerøy internal project: Aims to increase survival rate and growth in sea.
  • Lerøy internal project: Aims to find measures to reduce risk for mechanical injuries to fish.
  • NFR 326980 Welfare Severity: frameworks for classifying the welfare of farmed Atlantic salmon based upon the principles of severity assesment
  • FHF 901835 Best practice measures to prevent winter ulcers: aims to identify best practice for handling and mapping wound risk related to handling.
  • FHF 901838 Wound bacteria in sea-based salmon farming: aims to identify to what extent the risk of ulcer development depends on the composition of marine bacterial communities
  • FHF 901692 Causes of mortality and loss of cleaner fish (DOKUMETAR): aims to map the causes of the loss of cleaner fish, and developing handbooks with guidelines to reduce loss
  • FHF 901693 The influence of feeding strategy on nutrition and lice grazing efficiency in lump fish (STRATEGI): aims to make recommendations to satisfy the nutritional needs of farmed lump fish, which will contribute to better lice grazing efficiency
  • FHF 901798 The path to the best possible production of lump fish to ensure a robust and efficient fish (VEIEN): aims to develop new and improved production protocols for lump fish in order to improve welfare, robustness and survival at sea

The Group aims to improve the health and welfare of our fish. Ensuring good health and welfare is first and foremost an ethical responsibility, however reduced health and welfare can also negatively impact our biological and economic results. In order to ensure good health and welfare, the Group actively work to make sure that the fish thrive, grow and survive.

Improved fish health is monitored by number of disease outbreaks and survival rates.

What measures do we take to handle the fish as gently as possible

The Group strive to minimize handling operations of live fish. As little handling as possible improves fish health and welfare , which is an important objective for the Group.

We use procedures as management tools for our production. The procedures help us to standardize events at each life stage, and they are updated as soon as we gain new crucial knowledge regarding fish welfare. In this way, the entire organization acquires the new knowledge quickly and efficiently.

Smolt:

Pumps, transportation pipes, sorting equipment and vaccination equipment are checked at regular intervals and any damage or defects are repaired before use.

During major operations such as vaccination and sorting, the fish is checked for any damage at regular intervals to detect any defects of equipment.

All components used during sea transfer are checked regularly. If situations arise where an increased incidence of mechanically inflicted damage is registered, delivery is stopped until the cause of the damage has been investigated and corrected.

Ongrowing stages:

During sea transfer, dead fish are controlled for mechanical damage that may have been inflicted in connection with the transport. If it turns out that there is presence of mechanically inflicted wounds, a review of the delivery process will be taken.

When fish are crowded during various forms of handling, we have our own handling policies describing how this is to be carried out to ensure fish welfare.

In all non-medical lice treatments, welfare screening of the fish is performed before and after it has been treated. In this way, we have documentation of the impacts for the fish, and whether measures may need to be taken to reduce the negative consequences or not.

Cleaner fish

The company produces around 10 million Lump sucker per year. This implies a high ratio of self-supply, which in turn ensures predictability for deliveries and enables us to control targeted improvement measures, aiming to ensure predictability and biological  improvements for production.

Welfare for cleaner fish has been debated for some time, and we acknowledge the challenges involved in farming  cleaner fish. At the same time, we are aware that our  measures are moving us in the right direction, biologically.

Our onshore production facilities have implemented improvement measures within operations and biosafety, providing significant improvements to biology and cleaner fish welfare.

These measures encompass a wide range and comprise of:

  • Screening and selection of parent fish
  • Value chain regionalisation
  • Providing optimal environmental conditions
  • Providing optimal nutritional values
  • Improvements within logistics and handling
  • General biosafety measures such as input water disinfection, hygiene zones in time and space
  • Production biology

After transfer to salmon production sites, when the cleaner fish perform their function by eating salmon lice, we continue to experience challenges. The causes  of terminal losses are dominated by bacterial disease.

Measures to improve welfare are: 

  • Dedicated personell that provides daily care specific for the cleanerfish
  • Facilitate natural behavior by providing a good habitat
  • Offer a fed that is adapted to the species
  • Stimulate good health condition by preventive measures (t.ex. active immunization)
  • Perform health controls

Additional, we aim to not use more cleanerfish than necessary for lice management.

We provide a (at least) monthly health assessment, performed by authorised animal health personnel. Cleaner fish in the harvest stations are anesthezised and euthanized.

Main goals
  • Work for a better survival rate after transfer  to salmon production sites.
  • No disease and good fish welfare

ZONE COOPERATION 100%

All of our on-growing sites take part in a zone - based cooperation with other farmers. In all regions where the Group has operations, fallowing, washing/disinfection and restocking are coordinated in zones every second year. This cooperation also involves coordination of operations, collaboration relating to lice, disease management and other issues where the solution to the problem requires a joint, coordinated effort.

R&D projects within fish welfare and farming

The group participates in many different research projects in order to be at the forefront in terms of the best possible fish health and to implement new technology and expertise as soon as possible.

The various projects can be roughly divided into 3 different areas:

  • Sea lice
  • Medication
  • Survival

Most of our ongoing projects will fall into one of these groups.

Examples: Oxygenation in seacages, Feeding and cardiomyopathi syndrome, Wounds in smolts, Vaccine trials, Fish welfare indicators and thecnologicel measurment, Bacterial wounds in salmon ongrowing, Wounds in postsmolts, Sceletal deformities in trout, Health and growth in smolts.

Disease management

Disease management is of essential importance for all animal farming. Within the Group, disease  management is based on a preventive operational practice, where the primary goal is to prevent problems before they occur.

Our work on disease management is based on  recognized principles. These are in turn based on  biological know-how and attitudes, in which training for our employees and a live internal control system lay the foundations for operations. 

Disease prevention and management are monitored by fish health professionals (authorized animal health personnel), who also play key roles related to Lerøy's continuous learning  and development of best operational practice.

We aim to farm fish under production conditions that safeguard the biological requirements of all species. Density and water quality parameters, such as temperature, salinity and oxygen shall be adapted to the requirements for fish at different life stages. We operate a specific vaccination program and vaccinate all our farmed fish before sea transfer.

The main target for fish health and welfare is to increase fish survival rates throughout the production value chain.  Salmon mortality rates due to viral diseases has decresed by 19,4% during the last two years. All employees involved in handling live fish undergo training focusing on fish welfare.

Fish welfare is developed and monitored by keeping use of  medicines to a minimum, with careful assessment of use, using only approved medicines which have documented environmental impact in accordance with the  requirements of The Norwegian Medicines Agency, monitoring and documenting tolerance, and  following up biological feed factors.

Use of medication

Medication is used only when this is deemed appropriate and necessary.

We exclusively make use of licensed products, and all medicine prescriptions are issued by authorized animal health personnel. Lerøy Seafood Group currently employes 20-30 fish health professionals (authorized animal health personnel).

Chemical used in delousing, active agents (kg) per ton gross weight

Year  Via feed (kg) Via bath (kg) Hydrogen peroxide* (kg)
2022 0,000026 0,004 0,00
2021 0.000062 0.014 8.72
2020 0.0001  0.00012 5.3
2019 0.000149  0.000030  2.5
2018 0.000023 0.000003 6.11
2017 0.000162 0.000076 1.83
2016 0.00160 0.000547 18.40
2015 0.00132 0.001361 50.45
2014 0.002474 0.003034 40.87
2013 0.00006 0.002321 4.35