[March 9, 2022] – The Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) released a new report, Key Welfare Recommendations for Marine Capture Fisheries, highlighting major welfare issues that take place in wild capture fisheries. Intended for fisheries management practitioners, fishing industry actors, global certification bodies and other relevant decision-makers, the report urges the adoption of an animal welfare-based approach (WBA) to fisheries management policies and fishing practices.
The report identifies five priority areas during the fishing process in which poor animal welfare issues are widespread and significant: 1) capture and retrieval, 2) onboard handling, 3) stunning and slaughter, 4) incidental catch of non-target species (e.g., bycatch), and 5) abandoned fishing gear (e.g., ghost gear). Welfare issues experienced in capture fisheries include injury, exhaustion, thermal shock, barometric trauma, mutilation, and death by asphyxiation. To put the scale of this suffering into perspective, an estimated two to three trillion aquatic animals are caught at sea on an annual basis; 35 times more than the number of land animals killed for food.
To address these points of poor welfare, the authors introduce the concept of an ‘animal welfare-based approach’ to capture fisheries – where the key factor to consider when creating fisheries management policies, retrofitting fishing vessels, and designing new fishing technology, is the potential impact on the welfare of the animals in question.
“Welfare in capture fisheries is a completely new concept, even among dedicated fisheries management professionals. However, we have a moral and in many cases, legal obligation, to look after these animals as we do for land animals. It is also in the interest of the fishing sector itself to minimize the suffering inflicted on aquatic animals as much as possible, given the growing consumer awareness around animal welfare and the fact that the long-term viability of the fisheries sector depends on healthy fish populations,” notes one of the report’s authors, Christine Xu.
Importantly, the authors acknowledge that there exists a large scientific knowledge gap around how to achieve good animal welfare in capture fisheries. Therefore, in order to accelerate the adoption of humane capture and slaughter techniques in fisheries, “more research and financial support by all relevant stakeholders is needed, including developing ‘welfare-minded’ fishing gear, refining current fishing durations and speeds, scaling up humane stunning and slaughter onboard, and limiting the indirect effects of fishing on non-target animals,” says Wasseem Emam, one of the report’s authors.
“While we recognize that knowledge gaps exist, our report lists various actionable steps that can already be taken. Furthermore, we showcase several examples of existing good welfare practices in the fishing industry so we know that it can be done,” adds Emam.
Wild-caught aquatic animals are the last remaining major food-producing sector that does not take animal welfare into consideration. However, upcoming revisions of standards, including the Marine Stewardship Council and Best Seafood Practices (Global Seafood Alliance), provide a timely opportunity to change this. The authors hope that these and other global eco-labelling schemes will soon take the difficult but necessary step of requiring high welfare standards in certifying fisheries as ‘sustainable’.
Aquatic Life Institute
A Plastic Ocean Foundation
Africa Network for Animal Welfare USA
Albert Schweitzer Foundation
Animal Advocacy Africa
Animal Friends Croatia
Animal Justice Canada
Animal Kingdom Foundation
Animal Law Italia
Animal Rights Center Japan
Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals
Catholic Concern for Animals
Change For Animals Foundation
Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations
Compassion in World Farming
Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation
The Dark Hobby
Dharma Voices for Animals
The Dorsal Effect
Education for African Animals Welfare
Factory Farming Awareness Coalition
Fish Welfare Initiative
Friends of Phillip
Greek Animal Welfare Fund
Green REV Institute
Humane Africa Trust
The Humane League
Institute of Animal Law Asia
National Council of SPCAs
Nurture Imvelo Trust
Ocean Conservation Namibia
Planet For All
Protección Animal Ecuador (PAE)
Sharklife Conservation Group
Shrimp Welfare Project
Sống Thuần Chay
SPCA New Zealand
Tanzania Animal Welfare Society (TAWESO)
University of Guilan
Utunzi Animal Welfare Organization
Voices for Animals
Voters for Animals Rights
West Africa Centre for the Protection of Animal Welfare (WACPAW)
World Cetacean Alliance
About the Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) (www.ali.fish): The overarching aim of ALI is to expedite,
support and direct the nascent aquatic animal welfare movement, while researching and
focusing on the highest impact welfare interventions to positively impact the lives of all
ALI was founded in 2019 and has since founded two global coalitions for aquatic animal welfare:
- The Aquatic Animal Alliance (www.aaa.fish): Modeled after the Climate Justice Alliance and Open Wing Alliance, ALI created the Aquatic Animal Alliance to unite animal nonprofits around a common goal of decreased aquatic animal suffering.
- The Coalition for Aquatic Conservation (www.protect.fish): The Coalition for Aquatic Conservation aims to bridge the gap between ocean conservation organizations and aquatic animal welfare organizations to protect marine animals and ecosystems in a comprehensive manner.
The full report was developed by ALI with support from the AAA and the CAC. It is available on our website: https://ali.fish/key-welfare-recommendations-for-marine-capture-fisheries