Prioritizing Fish Species for Effective Welfare Improvements

By Thomas Billington and Marco Cerqueira

Humans farm an estimated 369 different species of finfish. Members of these species live in different conditions, are raised at various scales, and have distinctive requirements for their welfare. Thus, effective welfare improvements must consider:

  1. Which fish groups should be prioritized (based on the opportunity for the largest positive effect)

  2. The welfare needs of the prioritized fish groups

This report will focus on these two considerations. We apply these within the context of Fish Welfare Initiative's work, highlighting six fish groups that we have prioritized: Catla
(C​atla catla​), Striped Catfish (​Pangasianodon hypophthalmus​), Rohu (L​abeo rohita​), Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus​), Milkfish (C​hanos chanos)​, and Torpedo-Shaped Catfish (​Clarias spp.​).


Concerning the first point (which fish groups should be prioritized), we outline five criteria that we believe should be considered: sensitivity to negative stimuli, poor rearing conditions, number of fish raised, neglectedness, and tractability.


Concerning the second point (the specific welfare needs), we have conducted literature reviews on the welfare requirements of all of our priority fish groups. These are presented below, as well as a discussion of the limitations of such reviews.


Our aim within this report is to present Fish Welfare Initiative’s current perspective on prioritizing fish groups, and help start dialogue around this important topic. We hope this report can be informative both directly for those interested in our priority fish groups, and as a reference point for those beginning to work on fish welfare improvements.