Fish welfare Project

WSO/Friend of the Sea and myself , since several years, have been active in protection of aquatic species. It would be fair to say that we have been precursors, together with the Earth Island Institute and its Dolphin-Safe tuna project, of the sustainable seafood movement and care for welfare of aquatic species.

30 years ago, when sustainability as a word was not even known in the seafood arena, I started working for the Dolphin-Safe tuna project of the Earth Island Institute. 

We started to prevent dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific from being decimated by the tuna fisheries. And we won. We managed to change fisheries’ practices and USA legislation and lower dolphin mortality by 98% and literally save millions of dolphins. 

I am currently the Director of International Programs of the Dolphin-Safe tuna project. 

The project definetly improved welfare of dolphins, sharks and other aquatic species in the wild, as it then also implemented other requirements such as not using driftnets, no shark finning, albatross and turtles bycatch reduction measures in longlines, etc.

The Dolphin-Safe project started the Sustainable seafood movement and Friend of the Sea fisheries’ standard, which in itself is increasing welfare of fish and aquatic species in the oceans. 

Why? It is enough to have a look at Friend of the Sea certification requirements: they, for example, require no unsustainable impact of the fishing gears on seabed; reduced level of discards; no bycatch of endangered species; use of non entangling Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs); compliance with TACs, quotas, minimum size, mesh size; adherence to initiatives to reduce Ghost Fishing and many more. 

When you refer to Fish Welfare, you should not limit to aquaculture impact on welfare or at time of fishing, but also how the fleet impacts the fish habitat and ecosystem.

Additionally, over the years Friend of the Sea has developed other requirements for ornamental fish, public aquaria (the Lake District Coast Aquarium and Aquario have been certified), sustainable UV Creams, Sustainable Whale and Dolphin Watching, Sustainable Shipping and all of them include requirements related to fish welfare, as this is one of our priorities.

As far as aquaculture is concerned Friend of the Sea requirements all cover potential impacts which would be detrimental to fish welfare and thus compliance is improving welfare of fish in the wild and in the aquaculture plant. These requirements include but are not limited to: protection of critical habitat from site development; passive protection systems from predators; no use of growth hormones; appropriate use of antibiotics; feed; water quality.

As science has been providing increasing evidence of fish and aquatic species being sentient, Friend of the Sea’s concern over fish welfare has grown stronger. 

Two years ago Friend of the Sea and fair-fish international association have been awarded a grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to promote animal welfare principles among Friend of the Sea’s aquaculture certified companies. 

As part of the two-years project, the FishEthoBase-research team of fair-fish international has assessed the welfare of fish on most of Friend of the Sea’s aquaculture certified companies by direct observation of their current practices. 

Findings from these assessments are now being used to further strengthen Friend of the Sea fish welfare related requirements, allowing to create farm-specific improvement recommendations. Furthermore several companies have already implemented corrective measures to improve their fish welfare. 

The research has been introduced through formal presentations at academic and industry conferences. Please find here below a webinar which has been held in regards.

Fish Welfare and Aquaculture – Webinar

Sample of the requirements which have been developed on a species by species way for 21 species are available upon request. 

Each species has its own welfare needs and sometimes these are very different from one species to the other. Furthermore scientist do not yet always agree on best ‘solutions’ to current farming or fishing practices which could improve fish welfare. 

Scientists are also still in disagreement on the optimal and most ‘humane’ slaughtering of fish, lobsters, crabs and fish. 

The outcome of our in-depth assessment shed some light on this and allowed us to introduce new and more stringent fish-welfare requirements in the new version of Friend of the Sea aquaculture standard. We are planning a similar study with Fair-fish international on more humane killing in fisheries. 

On this matter our partner fair-fish has been the precursor years ago with first projects and collaborations with Senegalese artisanal fishermen, New Zealand fisheries and many others.

While I can certainly confirm that Friend of the Sea standards are not compatible with seals killings, I would like to stress how Friend of the Sea, by means of its several conservation projects and campaigns has always been proactively protecting aquatic species and their habitats, including monk seals, albatrosses, sharks (we led Deliveroo and Just Eat to take off sharkfin soups from their menus, globally), coral reefs, dolphins, sturgeons (we reinctrouced thousands of sturgeons in the Italian rivers), whales (we carried out campaigns against whales ship-strikes), penguins, turtles, aquatic snails, etc.

I hope you can appreciate all our efforts and scientific approach and how we managed, over the past 30 years, to change the industry and consumers’ attitude towards the oceans and their biodiversity. 

We did with the contribution of companies, institutions, universities, the FAO and many others. We are the only fisheries and aquaculture certification standard which is completely independent from the industry and we have been very selective over the years.

I am vegan since 10 years and I am strongly supportive of course about animal and fish welfare.

Please find below links to the relevant information and videos which sum up our activities.

Kind regards, Paolo

Friend of the Sea conservation programs and campaigns:

World Sustainability Organization / Friend of the Sea and Friend of the Earth institutional video:

WSO Annual Report:

The Return of King Sturgeon Video:

My interview on Fish welfare (I am vegan):