On 4 March 2008, EFSA held a technical meeting in Parma to support the process of delivering scientific advice to the European Commission on animal welfare aspects of husbandry systems for farmed fish. The meeting was organised for experts from EFSA’s AHAW Panel and its Working Groups to exchange views on general issues relevant to all finfish species with the main stakeholders as well as experts from Member States.
Due to the great diversity of species concerned, EFSA is preparing separate Scientific Opinions to respond to the Commission’s request for advice addressing the most common farmed fish species. They deal with Atlantic salmon, trout, carp, sea bass, sea bream and European eel. Discussions focused particularly on EFSA’s draft Scientific Report on Atlantic salmon which will inform its Opinion on this species. It was a good opportunity for experts to clarify their submissions in response to EFSA’s request to the main stakeholders for scientific comments on the Atlantic salmon Draft Report. The results of the meeting, together with the comments received on the Draft Report, will be taken into account and reviewed by the Animal Health and Welfare Panel.
Riitta Maijala, EFSA’s Director of Risk Assessment, presented EFSA’s scientific role and approach to animal health and welfare at the meeting and highlighted the importance EFSA attaches to exchanging views with all interested parties so that it can better inform its scientific advice.
Ana Afonso, scientific officer in EFSA’s AHAW unit, outlined the process followed for the development of Scientific Opinions at EFSA, the approach of the Panel on animal welfare mandates, as well as the timeline foreseen for the adoption of the opinion in line with the deadline requested by the European Commission.
An in-depth presentation of the work produced by the expert Working Group on Salmon welfare was given by Dr. Donal M. Broom, member of the AHAW Panel and chair of the Working Group. Dr. Broom raised various aspects of fish farming practices which may have an impact on fish welfare, such as the high stocking density, feeding distribution, handling and grading, inadequate disease treatment, and killing without stunning.
Discussions started with a summary of the answers sent by the participants to a questionnaire circulated earlier with the aim of gathering comments and data. Participants suggested adding to the already comprehensive collation of scientific papers references to recent EU-funded research projects in this area. It was proposed that the report should also address the question of transport due to the importance of this management practice on farming.
The appreciation of the importance given in the report to veterinary therapeutics and vaccines was expressed especially as this aspect is currently identified as having a major impact on fish welfare. Participants also raised the need to address the multi-factorial origin of the adverse effects of fish health including welfare and diseases. Experts shared information on current salmon farming practices, which, although not available in peer reviewed literature, should be considered when evaluating exposure to the potential welfare hazards indicated in the report.
EFSA will take into account all comments received during the consultation period as well as the key indications resulting from this meeting, particularly with a view to finalising its Opinion on Atlantic salmon.