Developing and refining species-specific welfare indicators for Nile tilapia reared in divergent production systems
Despite being the second most commonly farmed freshwater fish globally, the welfare needs of the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)are poorly understood. This is primarily driven by having received far less research attention than ‘high value’ species such as the Atlantic salmon. However, the sheer number of animals involved in such operations that are neither reared nor slaughtered humanely make it a highly neglected, tractable and scalable issue. As it stands, most operational welfare indicators (OWIs) used to assess the welfare status of tilapia in farm settings have been adapted from other species and simply assumed to be valid. However, our preliminary research has proven that this is not the case.
We recently secured a generous grant from the EA Funds Animal Welfare Fund to support doctoral-level research aimed at developing, validating and refining unique OWis for the Nile tilapia. In turn, these indicators will be used to: (1) validate the welfare assessment protocols developed by researchers in the UK and Brazil; and (2) build the foundation for the first true welfare standard for this globally important species.