Animal welfare is an important component of sustainability within an animal-based food system. However, appropriate fish welfare for fish farming is not well established and there are many opportunities to improve animal welfare within aquaculture. The diversity of species is a significant challenge, with over 20 different species of fish farmed in California alone! All of these species have different social, biological, and nutritional needs. While our lab is interested in the entirety of aquatic animal welfare at all life history stages of farmed aquatic animals, our lab is particularly focused on welfare practices around harvest and slaughter practices for large finfish. Additionally, we are constantly working with farmers throughout California and the rest of the US to improve the husbandry and welfare of the animals under their care.
We are currently involved in a number of projects evaluating the benefits of increasing fish welfare during slaughter on meat quality in sturgeon and salmonids. Slaughter technologies include percussive stunning and electrical stunning. This is a collaborative project with UC Davis (Drs. Crystal Yang and Jackson Gross) and Dr. Bob McGorrin at Oregon State University. This research was funded in 2021 by the USDA Western Regional Aquaculture Center.
We are also evaluating the utility of non-invasive ultrasound technology to assess reproductive health in farmed and endangered abalone. Very little research is directed at the animal welfare in invertebrate animals such as giant sea snails such as abalone. This research was funded in 2020 by the US Navy Commander Pacific Fleet.
Check out this Electric Stunning Youtube Video to view how we are applying electricity to sedate and slaughter steelhead trout or watch Dr. Sara Boles explain how we are using ultrasound in endangered black abalone conservation.