Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Appears in Collections:Aquaculture Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Qualitative Behavioural Assessment as a welfare indicator for farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in response to a stressful challenge
Author(s): Wiese, Timothy Robert
Rey Planellas, Sonia
Betancor, Monica
Haskell, Marie
Jarvis, Susan
Davie, Andrew
Wemelsfelder, Francoise
Turnbull, James F
Contact Email:
Keywords: emotional state
positive welfare
behavioural analysis
qualitative behaviour assessment
Issue Date: 28-Sep-2023
Date Deposited: 26-Oct-2023
Citation: Wiese TR, Rey Planellas S, Betancor M, Haskell M, Jarvis S, Davie A, Wemelsfelder F & Turnbull JF (2023) Qualitative Behavioural Assessment as a welfare indicator for farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in response to a stressful challenge. <i>Frontiers in Veterinary Science</i>, 10.
Abstract: Animal welfare assessments have struggled to investigate the emotional states of animals while focusing solely on available empirical evidence. Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) may provide insights into an animal's subjective experiences without compromising scientific rigor. Rather than assessing explicit, physical behaviours (i.e., what animals are doing, such as swimming or feeding), QBA describes and quantifies the overall expressive manner in which animals execute those behaviours (i.e., how relaxed or agitated they appear). While QBA has been successfully applied to scientific welfare assessments in a variety of species, its application within aquaculture remains largely unexplored. This study aimed to assess QBA's effectiveness in capturing changes in the emotional behaviour of Atlantic salmon following exposure to a stressful challenge. Nine tanks of juvenile Atlantic salmon were video-recorded every morning for 15 min over a 7-day period, in the middle of which a stressful challenge (intrusive sampling) was conducted on the salmon. The resultant 1-min, 63 video clips were then semi-randomised to avoid predictability and treatment bias for QBA scorers. Twelve salmon-industry professionals generated a list of 16 qualitative descriptors (e.g., relaxed, agitated, stressed) after viewing unrelated video-recordings depicting varying expressive characteristics of salmon in different contexts. A different group of 5 observers, with varied experience of salmon farming, subsequently scored the 16 descriptors for each clip using a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Principal Components Analysis (correlation matrix, no rotation) was used to identify perceived patterns of expressive characteristics across the video-clips, which revealed 4 dimensions explaining 74.5% of the variation between clips. PC1, ranging from 'relaxed/content/positive active' to 'unsettled/stressed/spooked/skittish' explained the highest percentage of variation (37%). QBA scores for video-clips on PC1, PC2, and PC4 achieved good inter- and intra-observer reliability. Linear Mixed Effects Models, controlled for observer variation in PC1 scores, showed a significant difference between PC1 scores before and after sampling (p = 0.03), with salmon being perceived as more stressed afterwards. PC1 scores also correlated positively with darting behaviours (r = 0.42, p < 0.001). These results are the first to report QBA's sensitivity to changes in expressive characteristics of salmon following a putatively stressful challenge, demonstrating QBA's potential as a welfare indicator within aquaculture.
DOI Link: 10.3389/fvets.2023.1260090
Rights: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Licence URL(s):

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
fvets-10-1260090 (1).pdfFulltext - Published Version4.24 MBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is protected by original copyright

A file in this item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons

Items in the Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.

The metadata of the records in the Repository are available under the CC0 public domain dedication: No Rights Reserved

If you believe that any material held in STORRE infringes copyright, please contact providing details and we will remove the Work from public display in STORRE and investigate your claim.