Each dot represents roughly a 100 fishes potentially helped by FWI, as of 2023.
The start of 2023 marks a monumental moment for FWI: We have potentially helped over
1 million fish! Specifically, we expect 1.32 million individuals to lead better lives due to the welfare improvements we have made on fish farms in India, Portugal, and the Philippines.
As our main programming country, India is where we helped the majority (roughly 1.07 million) individuals—and we expect to help another 1.5 million fishes in Andhra Pradesh, India, in 2023. Our work in the Philippines and Portugal comprised focused and time-limited projects that are now complete.
Fish farmers in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India, with Nagaraju Bijja, our Program Coordinator.
To measure the number of lives our interventions improved, we use a set of criteria (see How We Define Fish Helped) that, while imperfect, serve as an indicator of our program execution and impact. They involve a rather subjective, case-by-case approach with limitations we are working to resolve. Signaling this uncertainty, we consider the fishes we work for only potentially helped.
We continue to work toward better, more impactful, and more consistent welfare standards that can increase our certainty in the effectiveness and impact of our programs.
A Typical Intervention: Improving Dissolved Oxygen Levels
Stressors like poor water quality can rapidly deteriorate the living environment of fishes. Among the many determiners of water quality in a fish farm, dissolved oxygen stood out to us as a welfare concern with the most potential to immediately impact the lives of fishes.
On an intuitive level, this makes perfect sense—the oxygen fishes breathe is absorbed by their gills from the water; by bettering the water they live in, we can improve the quality of lives of fishes. But the effects of too-low or too-high dissolved oxygen are not always conspicuous to the naked eye.
This was, however, not the case on a recent field visit. In a farm in Kolleru, Andhra Pradesh, India, a routine measurement revealed that the dissolved oxygen level was very low (0.6 mg/L). The fish were forced to rise to the surface to gasp for the air they couldn’t find in the water column. This behavior, called gasping, is evidence of their suffering.
Low dissolved oxygen levels causing fishes to gasp at the water surface of a farm in Andhra Pradesh, India. The fishes expose their mouths (seen as dark spots on the surface) to air frequently, resulting in visible activity and ripples in the water.
We immediately recommended, as per our corrective action protocols, that the farmer exchange (replace) some of his farm water and add a low quantity of hydrogen peroxide (which breaks down to release oxygen into the water) to improve the dissolved oxygen levels.
Within 2 days, dissolved oxygen levels in the farm increased to 3.2 mg/L—an acceptable value for mornings. The farmer also did not observe any more fish gasping for air.
Without our intervention, the farmer may not have taken the necessary corrective actions and inadvertently prolonged the suffering of these fishes.
An aerator deployed in a fish farm in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India. Our corrective actions direct farmers to make the most effective use of equipment like aerators to maintain adequate dissolved oxygen levels in farms.
Moving Forward Into 2023
In 2023, we expect to help another 1.5 million individuals by increasing our certainty in the impact of our programming, and then scaling.
To achieve this, we plan to test and validate our Version 2 Welfare Standard during the first half of 2023. If this proceeds as planned, we will roll out Version 2 through the ARA and introduce it fully by end-2023 while also enrolling 150 additional farms into the ARA.
Though much uncertainty remains, we hope and expect that our understanding of the challenges and our impact for fishes will continue to grow.
Want to help us reduce the suffering of fishes, or share your thoughts on our work?