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Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Welfare of Gilthead Seabream Broodstock †

Ana Rita Oliveira
María J. Cabrera-Álvarez
Florbela Soares
Ana Candeias-Mendes
Pablo Arechavala-Lopez
1,4 and
João L. Saraiva
FishEthoGroup Association, 8700-159 Olhão, Portugal
CCMAR—Centro de Ciências do Mar, Universidade do Algarve, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
EPPO—Aquaculture Research Station, IPMA—Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere, 8700-305 Olhão, Portugal
IMEDEA (CSIC/UIB)—Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats, 07190 Mallorca, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the IX Iberian Congress of Ichthyology, Porto, Portugal, 20–23 June 2022.
Presenting author (oral presentation).
Biol. Life Sci. Forum 2022, 13(1), 90;
Published: 13 June 2022
(This article belongs to the Proceedings of The IX Iberian Congress of Ichthyology)


The intensification of aquaculture practices in the last decade has led to the reduction in welfare of farmed fish. Recently, one of the tools that has been considered important to guarantee or improve the welfare of captive fish is the application of environmental enrichment (EE). The physiological state and behaviour of fish can be used as indicators of the welfare of the animal, as well as of the positive impact of the EE in their well-being. In this study, behavioural and physiological indicators were measured to assess the effects of structural environmental enrichment on the welfare of gilthead seabream broodstock. Over the course of 5 months, 60 adult seabreams were distributed in six 3000 L cylindrical tanks. Three of the tanks were enriched with nine hanging organic ropes on 1 m2 floating structures, while the other three tanks had no enrichment. Fish were filmed regularly before, during, and after feeding, cleaning, and sampling procedures. Operational welfare indicators (OWIs) recently developed for farmed seabream were used and adapted to build an ethogram for the broodstock behaviour analysis. According to our results, fish reared in enriched tanks hardly schooled and presented a more independent swimming activity compared to fish from non-enriched tanks. Moreover, structural enrichment seemed to increase the spatial use of the bottom of the tank, and promoted seabream natural behaviour (hierarchical competitions, foraging, etc.). In addition, fish in enriched tanks presented a higher growth rate, and further studies will determine if such enrichment structures also affect reproductive potential of seabream broodstocks as well as epigenetic effects on offspring.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.R.O., P.A.-L., F.S. and J.L.S.; methodology, A.R.O., M.J.C.-Á., A.C.-M.; software, A.R.O.; validation, A.R.O.; formal analysis, A.R.O.; investigation, A.R.O., M.J.C.-Á., P.A.-L. and J.L.S.; resources, A.R.O., M.J.C.-Á., P.A.-L. and J.L.S.; data curation, A.R.O.; writing—original draft preparation, A.R.O.; writing—review and editing, A.R.O., M.J.C.-Á., P.A.-L. and J.L.S.; visualization, A.R.O.; supervision, F.S., P.A.-L. and J.L.S.; project administration, F.S., P.A.-L. and J.L.S.; funding acquisition, F.S., P.A.-L. and J.L.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This study received Portuguese national funds from the FCT-Foundation for Science and Technology through project UIDB/04326/2020 and doctorate grant UI/BD/151304/2021, and DIVERSIAQUA II (MAR-02.01.01-FEAMP-0175).

Institutional Review Board Statement

The experiment complied with the Guidelines of the European Union Council (Directive 2010/63/EU) and Portuguese legislation for the use of laboratory animals, was conducted at Estação Piloto Píscicola Experimental de Olhão (EPPO) facilities from IPIMAR (Olhão, Portugal). IPIMAR/EPPO facilities and their staff are certified to house and conduct experiments with live animals (Group-C licences by the Direção Geral de Alimentação e Veterinária, Ministério da Agricultura, Florestas e Desenvolvimento Rural, Portugal).

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Share and Cite

MDPI and ACS Style

Oliveira, A.R.; Cabrera-Álvarez, M.J.; Soares, F.; Candeias-Mendes, A.; Arechavala-Lopez, P.; Saraiva, J.L. Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Welfare of Gilthead Seabream Broodstock. Biol. Life Sci. Forum 2022, 13, 90.

AMA Style

Oliveira AR, Cabrera-Álvarez MJ, Soares F, Candeias-Mendes A, Arechavala-Lopez P, Saraiva JL. Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Welfare of Gilthead Seabream Broodstock. Biology and Life Sciences Forum. 2022; 13(1):90.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Oliveira, Ana Rita, María J. Cabrera-Álvarez, Florbela Soares, Ana Candeias-Mendes, Pablo Arechavala-Lopez, and João L. Saraiva. 2022. "Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Welfare of Gilthead Seabream Broodstock" Biology and Life Sciences Forum 13, no. 1: 90.

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