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Aquatonics is keen to work with aquaculture and the fishing industry in understanding and improving the welfare of fish. We have expertise in the physiology and health of fish and incorporate these approaches in development and validation of welfare indices that can be easily used on-farm. Anne Brown is currently participating in the EU COST 867 programme on Welfare of Fish in European Aquaculture.

We have expertise in measurement of blood hormones such as plasma cortisol, plasma glucose, blood sodium and other ions, haematocrit (packed cell volume), haemoglobin and lactate. We can assess tissue function by post-mortem assessments, enzyme assays, measurement of contaminants, or histology.

The use of inexpensive, hand-held blood lactate meters to provide an index of stress or limitations in oxygen availability is under trial. These lactate meters are easy to use and have wide potential application in aquaculture and also in assessing the welfare aspects of angling and commercial fishing.

The aquaculture industry uses a wide variety of subjective measures to estimate fish welfare, often based around research on salmonids. For example, there are established welfare guidelines for such species as salmon, produced by the RSPCA and Freedom Foods, but information for most species is still patchy.

We are currently working with Johnson Seafarms in Shetland to develop practical welfare indices for farmed cod, with co-funding from the Scottish Aquacultural Research Forum (SARF) and Department for Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). This work is currently dealing with on-growing cod held in cages in Vidlin, Shetland. Working at the farm, using current rearing systems and practices, means that we avoid subjecting fish to unnecessary levels of stress and experimentation. Our studies have so far focused on adult cod, and their welfare during crowding for grading and harvesting. We are using a variety of approaches incorporating physiology, behaviour and physical scores such as fin damage. The studies aim to provide a baseline from which welfare improvements can be measured. Pilot studies have been completed and methods refined.

Recent Publications & Presentations

Brown, J. A., Watson, J., Bourhill, A., Wall, T. (2010). Physiological welfare of commercially reared cod and effects of crowding for harvesting. Aquaculture 298: 315-324.

Brown, J. A., Bourhill, A., Watson, J., Hodgson, D. (2009). Development of practical on-farm cod welfare indices (SARF 021). Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum. Available at the SARF web site

Brown, J. A., Bourhill, A., Watson, J. (2009). Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) fin erosion key. Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum. Available at the SARF web site

Brown, J. A., Watson, J., Bourhill, A., Wall, T. (2008). Evaluation and use of the Lactate Pro, a portable lactate meter, in monitoring the physiological well-being of farmed Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Aquaculture 285: 135-140.

Scott, D. M., Rabineau, J., Wilson, R.. W., Hodgson, D. J., and Brown, J. A. (2008). Can pikeperch colonise new freshwater systems via estuaries? Evidence from behavioural salinity tests. Marine and Freshwater Research 58: 694-702.

Scott, D. M, Wilson R.W., Brown J. A. (2007). Can sunbleak Leucaspius delineatus or topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva disperse through saline waters? Journal of Fish Biology 71: Supplement D: Non-native Fishes: Integrated Biology of Establishment Success and Dispersal 70-86.

Brown, J. A., Scott, D. M., Wilson, R..W. (2007). Do estuaries act as saline bridges to allow invasion of new freshwater systems by non-indigenous fish species? Chapter 21 In: Biological Invaders in Inland Waters: Profiles, Distribution and Threats. Invading Nature - Springer Series in Invasion Ecology Vol 2. Ed. F. Gherardi. Springer

Anne Brown, Justin Warne Alan Bournhill (2007). Operational welfare indices for farmed cod. Presentation at EU COST 867 meeting, Varese, 2007.

J. A. Brown, A. Bournhill, J. Watson, T. Wall, T. Ellis, A.F. Zuur & E.N.Ieno (2007). Understanding the welfare of farmed cod under commercial conditions: integration of physiological, behavioural and physical approaches. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 146: S81.


Crawford and Company (Loss Adjustors) (2005). Assessment of losses at a trout farm due to power failure. Study included assessment of the welfare of the farmed trout, which were affected by parasites and disease.

CWA International/West of England P & I Hong Kong (2005). Examination of suspected contaminated tuna from the Marshall Islands. Visit to Thailand to inspect reefer vessel and cannery and take samples for chemical analysis. Study included consideration of tuna physiology, handling of captured tuna and freezing.

Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum (2006-2010). Development of Practical On-Farm Welfare Indices. SARF Contract 021. Funded by SARF, Defra and Johnson Seafarms.

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