Student - February 26, 2009

HAPPY FISH THANKS TO BIG BROTHER

If you want politically correct coffee (whether organic or fair trade), there is plenty of choice at the supermarket. But if you are concerned about the fish you eat, it gets a bit harder. A welfare monitor for farmed fish has been developed which can help with this. Like a Big Brother, the system keeps a constant eye on the fish.

FAST-TOOL is the name of this instrument, developed in Norway with EU funding. It is really a software programme that processes all sorts of data about the fish farm, on the basis of which it offers the farmer advice. The data is supplied daily by the fish farmer, who uses underwater cameras and various other instruments to collect it. For example, sensors measure the oxygen levels in the water, as well as the temperature and the salinity. Echo sounding is used to show where and how the fish are moving. In some cases, the movement and breathing of individual fish are even monitored. And the underwater camera enables farmers to follow and record the behaviour of their fish.

All this data is sent to a central computer which then produces advice for the fish farmer, explains Victor Immink of the LEI. Immink researched how the monitor can be used in practice – a stage that has not been reached yet. ‘Implementation will raise quite a few questions. For example, how do you handle this information? Who owns it? And do you need to set up a platform to steer the introduction process? If so, who should be involved?’

Nevertheless, the system has big advantages. The monitor can put together a sort of CV for every fish – in Immink’s words, ‘ a report that you send with it: this is what has happened to this fish. It makes it possible to bring in a labeling system in which specific qualities can be emphasized. You can compare it with the certification of coffee.’

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