Harmonisation of the Care and Use of Fish in Research

Background for the meeting

The European organisation FELASA (Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations) exists to aid collaboration between national and regional organisations promoting the welfare of animals used in research. The theme of the 9th FELASA symposium, held in Nantes in June 2004 was "Internationalisation and harmonisation in laboratory animal care and use issues". There were a number of lectures on the subject of fish as research animals, but it was clear that there is an international need both to exchange existing knowledge on the care and use of these species and to explore areas where our present knowledge is inadequate. 

The Laboratory Animal Unit at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science arranged this meeting in May to further these aims. These webpages are designed to be a supplement to the meeting. It is hoped that they will grow to become a reference centre for information on the care and use of fish in research.

The object of the meeting was to bring together experts from around the world and to exchange current information on how to apply "the Three R's" of Russell & Burch (Replace, Reduce, Refine) to the use of fish in research. With the emergence of aquaculture in many countries, and increasing emphasis on marine ecotoxicology and genomics, large numbers of fish are being used worldwide. In Norway alone nearly 2.5 million fish were used in 2003, accounting for 94% of all research animals. We believe that there are a number of detailed guidelines that deserve wider recognition, but also that there is a need to try to reach consensus on several welfare issues. Furthermore, we hope to increase the exchange of knowledge between scientists and technicians using fish and the traditional laboratory animal species.

Topics discussed at the meeting included: 

  • General guidelines for the care and use of fish: what do we have and what do we need? 
  • Handling and procedures - best practice 
  • Health monitoring and fish welfare 
  • Environmental parameters and enrichment 
  • Anaesthesia, analgesia and pain perception 
  • Alternatives (Refinement, Reduction, Replacement) 
  • The challenge of FELASA accreditation of courses in laboratory animal science for fish researchers

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