DAO 75:165-171 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao075165

Contribution to the DAO Special 'Welfare of Aquatic Organisms'

Insights into the concept of fish welfare

Gilson Luiz Volpato1,*, Eliane Gonçalves-de-Freitas2, Marisa Fernandes-de-Castilho3

1Research Center on Animal Welfare (CNPq), Laboratory of Animal Physiology and Behavior, Department of Physiology, Instituto de Biociências, Caunesp, Universidade Estadual Paulista, Cx Postal 510, 18618-000 Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil
2Research Center on Animal Welfare (CNPq), Laboratory of Animal Behavior, Department of Zoology and Botany, Instituto de Biociências, Letras e Ciências Exatas, Caunesp, Universidade Estadual Paulista, CEP 15054-000, São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil
3Research Center on Animal Welfare (CNPq), Laboratory of Studies on Animal Stress, Department of Physiology, Section of Biological Sciences, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Cx Postal 1903, CEP 81531-970, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil

ABSTRACT: Fish welfare issues are predicated on understanding whether fish are sentient beings. Therefore, we analyzed the logic of the methodologies used for studying this attribute. We conclude that empirical science is unable to prove or to disprove that fish are sentient beings. Thus, we propose a combined ethical-scientific approach for considering fish as sentient beings. The most difficult ongoing question is to determine which conditions fish prefer. Approaches to assess fish preferences should be rigorously and cautiously employed. In light of these considerations, attempts to establish physiological standards for fish welfare are discouraged, and a preference-based definition of fish welfare is proposed.

KEY WORDS: Welfare · Pain · Stress · Aquaculture · Consciousness · Sentience · Preference · Fish

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