The Institute of Marine Research is the Norwegian food authorities' centre of competence and main advisor when it comes to animal welfare within fisheries and aquaculture. The Norwegian Animal Welfare Act protects marine mammals, sea birds, fish, decapods and octopuses.
Animal welfare is about how the animals themselves experience their existence, and to which extent their basic needs are being met when it comes to environment, nutrition and safety. By breeding animals in captivity we control their living conditions, therefore we have a particular responsibility for their welfare. Due to this, farmed fish have received the most focus in the last few decades. Through a wide range of projects, the Animal Welfare Research Group has been investigating important topics, such as how the environment varies within the fish farming cages, what kind of environmental parameters the fish prefer and avoid, and how farmed fish cope with environmental variation (such as temperature variations, oxygen levels, currents, light conditions, or pressure/depth) and mechanical handling (such as pumping, crowding, lice treatment, etc.).
Recently, different preventive methods have been developed to mitigate infestations of sea lice, and many innovative technologies have been developed to remove lice. However, it appears that such methods can be hazardous, and that they might injure, or even kill, many fish if they do not take the biology and the stress tolerance of the fish into account. Our task is to investigate what kind of treatment the fish can withstand and what kind of environmental conditions it can cope with. We also consider if, and possibly how, they can learn to adapt to the environment they are being offered by new fish farming technologies, such as sea cages in exposed sites, submerged sea cages, closed sea cages, etc.
We also work with developing and verifying indicators and protocols for the most objective evaluation of fish welfare, investigating how acute and chronic stress affect fish in the short and long term, exploring mechanisms for individual variation in coping with the same environment (genetic or developmental factors?), studies of the learning ability of fish and how we can influence fish behaviour for their best interests, etc.
Our researchers: Tore S Kristiansen (leader of the research group), Anders Mangor-Jensen, Frode Oppedal, Thomas Torgersen, Lars H Stien, Jonatan Nilsson, Ole Folkedal, Angelico Madaro. Prof II: Rolf Erik Olsen (NTNU). Post Docs: Daniel W. Wright, Samantha Bui, Tina Oldham. PhD students: Malthe Hvas, Gunvar Mikkelsen, Lene Moltumyr. Research technicians: Jan Erik Fosseidengen, Tone Vågseth, Velimir Nola.
Our most important projects during the period 2018–2020:
NEWCOPE - Coping with new environments and production methods: animal welfare and stress biology applied to modern fish farming. Contact: Tore S Kristiansen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
REGFISHWEL - Effects of the Regulatory Framework on Fish Welfare and Health. Contact: Lars H Stien (email@example.com).
ECHOFEEDING - Echo sounder technology for appetite-led-feeding and welfare-monitoring of caged salmon. Contact: Ole Folkedal (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Preventive methods for reducing infestations of sea lice (several projects). Contact: Frode Oppedal (email@example.com).
Monitoring of fish welfare (several projects). Contact: Lars H Stien (firstname.lastname@example.org).