Written evidence submitted by the The Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) (FS0012)



The Aquatic Life Institute (ALI) operates from effective altruism principles to support and accelerate activities that improve the welfare of aquatic animals in the food system on an international scale.

ALI was founded to expedite, support, and direct the nascent aquatic animal welfare movement. Our work is motivated by the understanding that approximately 500 billion aquatic animals are farmed annually in high-suffering conditions and, to date, there is negligible advocacy aimed at improving fish welfare.


We support research to compare potential welfare interventions and then advocate for the most promising initiatives’ implementation, with the aim of positively impacting the lives of aquatic animals. We unite nonprofits, academic institutions, industry stakeholders, and the public with the common goal of reducing aquatic animal suffering. Our internal research team identifies priority areas and our advocacy agenda. We identify and advocate for high aquatic animal welfare among key decision-makers that influence how aquatic animals are utilized (e.g. by industry), and how their welfare is defined and governed (e.g. by standards, certifications, policies and guidelines).


We appreciate the UK Government and its efforts to spur sustainable economic development and social progress and would like to share information related to improving aquatic animal welfare that can be considered when evaluating future interventions or projects.


Animal welfare considerations


Animal welfare considerations are inextricably linked to ethical, environmental and social issues, and therefore should be an integral component of UK sustainable development policies moving forward. In a food production system that is highly intensive coupled with low animal welfare considerations, the results include increased disease, food insecurity, negative environmental and ecosystem impacts, and lower resource efficiency and productivity.


If the UK aims to achieve long-term and effective change in food consumption and production, the Government needs to reduce its reliance on animal-centric food systems. We need to shift towards more plant-rich, healthy, and affordable diets and sustainable agricultural practices that support small-holder farmers and local communities. Moreover, reducing industrialized livestock production and consumption is essential to meet the global targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


ALI presents recommendations regarding aquatic animal welfare that can contribute to improved nutrition, food security, food safety and ecosystem health, along with reduced carbon emissions, ocean plastics, overfishing and public health threats. High aquatic animal welfare translates to a more food-secure future, as it uses the best available science to create high welfare environments that ultimately reduce disease and mortality.





The demand for fish and fish products has grown dramatically in recent years due to the growing human population. This led to an intensification of aquaculture practices and consequently resulted in increased waste generation from the production systems.


Over 50% of all fish consumed by humans now comes from farmed fish. Between 1/3 to 1/2 of all fish caught in the wild are fed to farmed fish (approx 1.2 trillion fishes). Consequently, vast quantities of commercially caught wild fish are processed into fish meal/oil to feed carnivorous farmed fish (such as salmon) instead of direct human consumption. Investing in plant-based fish feed has the potential to be one of the highest-impact interventions. The development of a palatable, nutritionally-complete, and cost-effective aquafeed has the potential to dramatically reduce the number of animals used throughout the aquaculture supply chain and consequently improve global food security.


On top of that, elevating animal welfare in aquaculture improves environmental preservation, protects local ecosystems, and provides UK citizens with healthier and more nutritious seafood products. Conversely, a regulatory oversight related to aquatic animal welfare considerations could result in continuous environmental degradation, waterway pollution, increased susceptibility to disease, greater reliance on antibiotics, detrimental impacts on local habitats and biodiversity, and harmful additives being introduced to residents’ seafood supply.


Please see our  Benefits of aquatic animal welfare for sustainability for more detailed information.




We appreciate the efforts of the UK to act globally to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing is a dangerous maritime threat that has detrimental effects on local ecosystems, biodiversity, and national security. IUU fishing is an extremely low-welfare practice that contributes to the immense animal suffering already endured in capture fisheries resulting in the depletion of fish stocks, overfishing, economic losses, and increased crime. Consequences of depleted fish stocks in coastal nations, such as increased unemployment and social unrest, can further destabilize national and regional security. Moreover, in capture fisheries, issues of human trafficking and human rights violations, particularly among migrant workers in developing nations, have been documented on fishing vessels and must end.


Traditional fishing practices need substantial improvement as it relates to sustainable strategy development and alignment with the UK Government's food strategy. We have identified areas that have the potential to improve the welfare of animals affected by capture fisheries and should be included in the UK Government's food strategy:


  1.                        Welfare indicators & adequate training: Training in careful capture, handling and slaughter techniques should be mandatory for all personnel involved in fishing activities. Such training should cover how to consider the welfare of the animal when selecting fishing gear, how to carefully remove hooks and how to limit suffocation in air before slaughter. Training should also cover the consideration of welfare for indirectly affected species (e.g. turtle resuscitation).
  2.                        Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS): One of the biggest challenges to sustainable and humane capture fisheries is monitoring and enforcing fishing activities out at sea, including accurate record-keeping of catch data. There must be an urgent and concerted effort for improved fisheries management, such as mandating technology or other methods on board for continuous monitoring and enforcement. Such measures can help address concerns around animal and human rights abuses on board as well as overfishing. This would also help combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and limit bycatch. Recommendations to strengthen MCS and improve animal welfare include:

                                                                            Electronically monitoring and recording injuries in captured animals in addition to catch, gear and bycatch data at the time of processing (phase out the use of manual logbooks);

                                                                            Installing on-board cameras capable of live streaming (in addition to human observers);

                                                                            Enacting policies to mandate MCS in commercial fisheries to protect both animals and fishers; and

                                                                            All governments and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) should cooperate closely in harmonizing data collection and sharing.

  1.                        Overfishing: Overfishing is closely tied to fish suffering and bycatch. Around 30 percent of fish populations are currently overfished. Not only does it threaten animals and marine ecosystems but also livelihoods that depend on sustainably-managed fisheries. We recommend the following measures:

                                                                            Apply an animal WBA in the revision of current policies, standards, and guidelines with an eye to reducing overfishing.

                                                                            Enforce fishing restrictions in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs);

                                                                            Eliminate harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing.

  1.                        Human rights: Widespread cases of human trafficking and human rights violations have been documented onboard fishing vessels. This issue must be urgently addressed. Fishers who are mistreated and subject to inhumane conditions onboard are unlikely to consider animal welfare either. We urge all states to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 188 and adopt it in their national legislation.
  2.                        Transparency and traceability: The seafood supply chain is one of the most complex in the world, rife with widespread cases of fraud and mislabelling. In order for fisheries to be truly sustainable and to support efforts at improving animal welfare, we recommend the following:

                                                                            Markets and consumers should demand transparency and traceability of all aquatic animal products, including data on humane capture and stunning. This will allow them to make informed decisions in rejecting products derived through inhumane practices.

                                                                            Retailers should amend their sourcing policies to require, for example, supplier data on animal welfare training for fishers, catch data, and robust electronic monitoring onboard.

                                                                            Independent audits should be carried out across the value chain to ensure compliance with corporate responsible sourcing policies.

  1.                        Artisanal Fisheries: Small-scale fisheries constitute half of the global fish catch and make an important contribution to food security and employment. Many artisanal fishers take shorter trips, use more humane capture techniques, and have a sense of stewardship of their sea, all of which can help minimize the suffering of aquatic animals, reduce overfishing and limit bycatch. However, this is not always the case. We encourage following the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries as a baseline for improving the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. In addition, in order to improve welfare in these fisheries, we recommend the following interventions:

                                                                            As with commercial fisheries, capture and retrieval methods should not be detrimental to the local ecosystem or fish populations. The use of chemicals, explosives and poisonous baits for fishing should be prohibited. In general, the use of low-impact fishing gear should be encouraged.

                                                                            In line with our recommendations for commercial fisheries, captured aquatic animals should be stunned immediately, followed by slaughter as quickly and humanely as possible. Due to affordability concerns, we acknowledge that priority may be placed on cost-efficient and culturally-appropriate technologies.


By allowing space for welfare-based fisheries’ management regulations to be developed within the UK Government's food strategy, the reduction of unintended harm to both target and non-target animals will contribute to the long-term viability of the fisheries sector and reduce the likelihood of certain fisheries being shut down.


Please see our Key Welfare Recommendations for Marine Capture Fisheries for more detailed information.


Financial note


The Aquatic Life Institute believes that reducing industrial-scale fishing and aquaculture benefits ecosystems, food security, and human and animal rights. To achieve so, the Government needs to stop investing in industrialized farming systems and should shift existing fiscal policies from subsidizing industrial animal agriculture and should incentivize the production of more sustainable, higher animal welfare and climate-friendly food.


September 2022