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Article

MyFishCheck: A Model to Assess Fish Welfare in Aquaculture

1
Research Group for Aquaculture Systems, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, 8820 Wädenswil, Switzerland
2
Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health, University of Berne, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
3
Research Group for Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, 8820 Wädenswil, Switzerland
4
Research Group for Knowledge Engineering, Institute of Applied Simulation, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, 8820 Wädenswil, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2021, 11(1), 145; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010145
Received: 26 November 2020 / Accepted: 6 January 2021 / Published: 11 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Tools for the Evaluation of Animal Welfare)
Welfare is a key aspect in animal husbandry. However, in aquaculture, scientifically validated and practically proven methods to evaluate fish welfare are largely missing. With raising societal requirements for animal-friendly husbandry, this lack represents a problem for farmers and scientists alike. We therefore developed MyFishCheck, a comprehensive model and a user-friendly app to assess and document welfare as part of the working routines in fish husbandry. The app enables an easy and standardised measurement of relevant, practicable and reliable parameters, from which the model calculates intuitive welfare grades. Both the model and the app are explicitly designed to be adaptable to new knowledge and any fish species and husbandry system. MyFishCheck allows a standardised evaluation and digital documentation of fish welfare. As a result, improvements can be tracked and problems identified early. We hope that MyFishCheck proves to be a useful tool for fish farmers and supports them in their effort to improve welfare in aquaculture.
Welfare in animal husbandry includes considerations of biology, ethics, ecology, law and economics. These diverse aspects must be translated into common quantifiable parameters and applicable methods to objectively assess welfare in animals. To assist this process in the field of aquaculture, where such methods are largely missing, we developed a model to assess fish welfare. A network of information was created to link needs, i.e., fundamental requirements for welfare, with parameters, i.e., quantifiable aspects of welfare. From this ontology, 80 parameters that are relevant for welfare, have practicable assessment methods and deliver reliable results were selected and incorporated into a model. The model, named MyFishCheck, allows the evaluation of welfare in five distinct modules: farm management, water quality, fish group behaviour, fish external and fish internal appearance, thereby yielding five individual grades categorising welfare ranging from critical, to poor, to acceptable, and good. To facilitate the use of the model, a software application was written. With its adaptability to different fish species, farming systems, regulations and purposes as well as its user-friendly digital version, MyFishCheck is a next step towards improved fish welfare assessment and provides a basis for ongoing positive developments for the industry, the farmers and the fish. View Full-Text
Keywords: aquaculture; fish welfare; ontology; semantic data model; animal welfare assessment aquaculture; fish welfare; ontology; semantic data model; animal welfare assessment
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MDPI and ACS Style

Tschirren, L.; Bachmann, D.; Güler, A.C.; Blaser, O.; Rhyner, N.; Seitz, A.; Zbinden, E.; Wahli, T.; Segner, H.; Refardt, D. MyFishCheck: A Model to Assess Fish Welfare in Aquaculture. Animals 2021, 11, 145. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010145

AMA Style

Tschirren L, Bachmann D, Güler AC, Blaser O, Rhyner N, Seitz A, Zbinden E, Wahli T, Segner H, Refardt D. MyFishCheck: A Model to Assess Fish Welfare in Aquaculture. Animals. 2021; 11(1):145. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010145

Chicago/Turabian Style

Tschirren, Linda; Bachmann, David; Güler, Ali C.; Blaser, Oliver; Rhyner, Nicola; Seitz, Andreas; Zbinden, Erich; Wahli, Thomas; Segner, Helmut; Refardt, Dominik. 2021. "MyFishCheck: A Model to Assess Fish Welfare in Aquaculture" Animals 11, no. 1: 145. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010145

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