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Animal welfare

Animal welfare is a concept with both ethical and scientific dimensions, but which lacks an unambiguous definition. A scientific definition of animal welfare would be: the ability of an animal to cope physiologically, behaviourally, cognitively and emotionally with its physiochemical and social life environment, including the animal’s subjective experience of its condition.

The Institute of Marine Research is the authorities’ centre of expertise for animal welfare in the fisheries and aquaculture industry. The Animal welfare research group will play a central role in building up our knowledge and developing methods in this area.

Theoretical foundations of the field of animal welfare in aquatic organisms:

  • Stress and stressors
  • Acute and chronic stress, effects, tolerance thresholds and areas
  • Behavioural and physiological stress responses and control mechanisms
  • Measurement and modelling of behavioural and physiological responses and costs related to environmental changes

Coping and coping styles:

  • Behavioural control mechanisms, including learning and cognitive abilities
  • Individual variation: behavioural, physiological and neurobiological mechanisms
  • Effects of developmental environment and genetics on development and coping
  • Natural behavioural requirements.

Monitoring welfare in the fisheries and aquaculture industries:

  • Physical and social environment
  • Anthropogenic stress and stressors
  • Behaviour and physiology
  • Operational indicators of welfare (positive and negative)
  • Monitoring methods and technology with associated expert systems
  • Evaluation of new technology and alternative procedures.

Collaboration with other groups

Health research group:

  • Relationships between stress level and health/disease
  • Effects of chronic and acute stress on immunocompetence and the immune response
  • Effects of parasites and infections on behaviour and welfare
  • Effects of vaccination on behaviour and welfare (also with the Growth and reproduction research group)

Marine genome and population genetics research group:

  • Molecular biological methods for validating stress and other physiological responses
  • Molecular biological methods for identifying individuals with specific characteristics
  • Consequences of domestication for welfare
  • Genetic background of behaviour and coping styles in farmed fish

Reproduction and growth research group:

  • Effects of environmental stress on normal development and growth
  • Consequences for behaviour and welfare of early sexual maturation
  • Consequences for behaviour and welfare of the use of artificial light
  • Relationships between fish welfare/stress/coping level and growth/development
  • Relationships between learning, motivation, growth and welfare

Early life stages research group:

  • Effects of developmental environment in early life stages on coping, growth and development

Fish capture research group:

  • Animal welfare in fisheries and fish capture-based aquaculture

Other inter-group collaborative efforts:

  • Ecological and behavioural modelling in large groups

Acting research group manager: Tore Kristiansen, +47 920 69 918