Short profile


FishEthoScore of the species

Abbreviated assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for fish welfare in aquaculture, based on ethological findings for 10 crucial criteria.

Criteria Li Po Ce
1 Home range ?
2 Depth range
3 Migration
4 Reproduction
5 Aggregation ?
6 Aggression ?
7 Substrate
8 Stress
9 Malformation
10 Slaughter
FishEthoScore 0 2 0
Li = Likelihood that the individuals of the species experience welfare under minimal farming conditions
Po = Potential overall potential of the individuals of the species to experience welfare under improved farming conditions
Ce = Certainty of our findings in Likelihood and Potential
 
                    ?     /  
  High    Medium     Low     Unclear  No findings
 
FishEthoScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)



General remarks

Acipenser baerii, an endangered species according to the IUCN redlist, has been farmed for over a century, but only recently the full life cycle has been successfully closed in aquaculture. Sturgeons are mostly reared for caviar, and while its production started in the former USSR, A. baerii production is now present in Belgium, China, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Switzlerland, and the United States of America. However, there are many aspects of welfare that are being overlooked: usual rearing tanks are too small, spawning induction is highly invasive, it requires proper substrate in all stages of its life cycle, and the establishment of a humane slaughter protocol is still missing. Although some effort is being undertaken, fish components are still present in the feed. Many aspects of its biology remain unclear and require further investigation. 


1. Are minimal farming conditions likely to provide the home range of the species? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

?
Likelihood
M
Potential
M
Certainty

LARVAE: WILD: initially PLANKTONIC, so no home range [1]. At 3 days post-hatching with limited movement [1]FARM: hatchery troughs: 50 x 70 cm [2] [3]; aerated jars: 13-60 L [4] [3]; LARVAE troughs: 200 x 50 cm [4]; FINGERLINGS circular tanks: 2-4 m2 [4] [3].

JUVENILESWILD: no data found yet. FARM: raceways: 8-50 m long x 1-15 m wide [5] [6]; ponds: 1-4 ha [3]; cages: 20-100 m2 (15-20 m2 for overwintering) [3].

ADULTSWILD: no data found yet. Able to perform large scale movements  crit. 3. FARM: JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILDno data found yet. FARM: tanks: 20-40 m [3]; cages: 10-50 m[3]; ponds: 250-1,500 m2 [3]. For sturgeons in general, pre-spawn holding in "Kazansky" type earthen ponds: 120-130 m [3] or "Kurinsky" type earthen ponds: 30-60 x 12 m [3]; long-term holding in concrete tanks: 30-50 m2 [3] or cages: 20-100 m2 [3]; overwintering of breeders in plastic and concrete tanks: >40 m3 [3] or "Kurinsky" type concrete ponds: 105 x 17 m or 1,000-4,000 ha separated into different compartments [3]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. baerii as well.


2. Are minimal farming conditions likely to provide the depth range of the species? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
L
Potential
M
Certainty

LARVAE: WILD: initially PELAGIC [1]. At 3 days post hatching become BENTHIC, with limited movement [1]FARM: hatchery troughs: 20-50 cm [2] [3]; aerated jars: 13-60 L [4] [3]; LARVAE troughs: 15-20 cm [4]; FINGERLINGS circular tanks: ca 1 m [4] [3].

JUVENILES: WILD: 20-50 m, occasionally 100-150 m [7]. FARM: ponds: 2 m [2]; raceways: 0.8-1.5 m [5] [6]; tanks: 0.6-1.5 m [3]; cages: 0.8-2.5 m [3]. For sturgeons in general, ponds: 2.3-2.5 m [3]; cages: 2.5-3.5 m [3]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. baerii as well.

ADULTS JUVENILES.

SPAWNERSWILD: no data found yet. FARM: for sturgeons in general, pre-spawn holding in "Kazansky" type earthen ponds: 0.5-2.5 m [3] or "Kurinsky" type earthen ponds: 1.5-2.5 m [3]; long-term holding in concrete tanks: 2 m [3] or cages: 3-3.5 m [3]; overwintering of breeders in plastic and concrete tanks: >1.5 m [3]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. baerii as well.


3. Are minimal farming conditions compatible with the migrating or habitat-changing behaviour of the species? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
M
Potential
M
Certainty

Some populations ANADROMOUS [8], others resident in fresh water [9] [10].

LARVAE: WILD: initially PELAGIC, dragged downstream [1]. At 3 days post-hatching become BENTHIC and stationary in the bottom [11] [1] [12]FARM: usually farmed in fresh water [13]. For details of holding systems  crit. 1 and 2.

JUVENILES: WILD: some populations stationary in rivers and lakes [14], others migrate to estuaries [15]FARM: usually farmed in fresh water [16] [17]. For details of holding systems  crit. 1 and 2.

ADULTS JUVENILES.

SPAWNERSWILD: migrate upstream from lower river basins or estuaries [15] to spawn [18] [19] [8] [20] [14]FARM: for sturgeons in general, "Kazansky" or "Kurinsky" type earthen ponds simulate spawning reaches of rivers [3]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. baerii as well.


4. Is the species likely to reproduce in captivity without manipulation? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
M
Potential
M
Certainty

WILD: spawning in May-June at water temperatures 9-18 °C in the main channel of rivers over stony-gravel or gravelly-sand bottoms near the depressions in which they winter [7]. Further research needed on reproductive behaviour. FARM: vernalisation and hormone treatments with gonadotropin-releasing hormone or extracts of sturgeon or carp pituitary to induce ovulation in females [4] [3]. Eggs are harvested either by repeated abdominal massaging, laparotomy [4] or other surgical techniques [3]. Milt is extracted from males through a catheter and a syringe, and insemination is performed manually [3] [4]. Modern techniques are less invasive and include ultrasound to assess maturity and manual stripping, all under anaesthesia [6].


5. Is the aggregation imposed by minimal farming conditions likely to be compatible with the natural behaviour of the species? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

?
Likelihood
M
Potential
L
Certainty

LARVAE: WILD: shoaling phase between 7 and 11 days post hatching [20]FARM: 30-60 IND/L [13].

JUVENILES: WILD: other Acipenser species are known to aggregate [21]. Further research needed to determine wether this applies to A. baerii as well. FARM: 10-30 kg/m3, <10 kg/m3 in some cases [6].

ADULTSWILD:  JUVENILESFARM: 12-20 kg/m3 [6].

SPAWNERS: WILD: presumably form spawning aggregations [7]. FARM: <20 kg/m3 [22] [6].


6. Is the species likely to be non-aggressive and non-territorial? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

?
Likelihood
M
Potential
L
Certainty

LARVAE: WILDno data found yet. FARM: cannibalistic [11], but low density and correct grading can solve aggression issues [6].

JUVENILES: WILD: no data found yet. FARM: not aggressive in good farming conditions [6]. LAB: the congener A. fulvescens is reported to be non-aggressive [23]. Further research needed to determine whether this applies to A. baerii as well. 

ADULTS: WILD: no data found yetFARM: not aggressive in good farming conditions [6].

SPAWNERSWILD: no data found yetFARM:  ADULTS.


7. Are minimal farming conditions likely to match the natural substrate and shelter needs of the species? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
M
Potential
M
Certainty

Eggs: WILDBENTHIC, adherent to substrate [2]FARM: undergo a mechanical de-adhesion process [3].

LARVAE: WILD and FARM: no data found yet. LAB: use substrate for shelter from 17 days post-hatching onwards [1].

JUVENILES: WILD: BENTHIC [24], covered bottom habitats [1], preference for sand, silt, and pebbles [25]-[20]. FARM: earthen ponds are able to provide natural substrate [6].

ADULTS JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: WILD: spawn and lay eggs in main river channel over stone-gravel or gravel-sand bottoms [26]-[27]FARM JUVENILES.


8. Are minimal farming conditions (handling, confinement etc.) likely not to stress the individuals of the species? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
M
Potential
L
Certainty

Eggs: very sensitive to mechanical stress [13].

LARVAE Eggs.

JUVENILES: stressed by heat [28], confinement [29], and farm-levels of nitrates in the water [29]. Show resistance and rapid recovery to air exposure [30].

ADULTS JUVENILES.

SPAWNERS: stressed by injections but not by confinement [31]. Further research needed to disentangle contradictory results.


9. Are malformations of this species likely to be rare under farming conditions? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
H
Potential
M
Certainty

LARVAE: malformations in the abdominal cavity, heart, yolk sac walls, skeleton, tail muscles, body trunk, and head structures in 3.6-11.4% of individuals [32] [1] [33] [13] [34]. High-standard conditions may lower malformation rate to 2-3% [6].

JUVENILES: may incur deformations upon reactions to loud noises or abrupt events (thunders, sudden movements, etc) [6].

ADULTS JUVENILES.


10. Is a humane slaughter protocol likely to be applied under minimal farming conditions? What overall welfare potential can be achieved? How certain are these findings?

L
Likelihood
H
Potential
M
Certainty

Common slaughter method: hypothermia by immersion in ice-water slurry [35]. High-standard slaughter method: electronarcosis and percussive stunning by spiking, followed by bleeding [35] [6].


Side note: Domestication

DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 [36], fully domesticated.


Side note: Feeding without components of forage fishery

All age classes: WILD: carnivorous [2]. FARM: fish meal may be mostly* [37] [38] [39] or completely* replaced by plant protein [40] [41] and partially* replaced by poultry by-products [42] [43].

*partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%


Glossary

ADULTS = mature individuals, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
ANADROMOUS = migrating from the sea into fresh water to spawn
BENTHIC = living at the bottom of a body of water
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 5 = selective breeding programmes are used focusing on specific goals [36]
FARM = setting in farm environment
FINGERLINGS = fry with fully developed scales and working fins, the size of a finger; for details Findings 10.1 Ontogentic development
IND = individuals
JUVENILES = fully developed but immature individuals, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
LAB = setting in laboratory environment
LARVAE = hatching to mouth opening, for details Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
PELAGIC = living independent of bottom and shore of a body of water
PLANKTONIC = horizontal movement limited to hydrodynamic displacement
SPAWNERS = adults that are kept as broodstock
WILD = setting in the wild


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