Comments from the participants

The participants were asked to leave their comments, notes and remarks at the end of the meeting and the notes were used in the final report from the meeting.

Several participants commented on the need of using pre-studies and statistical methods to improve fish models. 

  • One participant wrote: "Not necessary to wait for new refined methods to be developed in order to improve the 3Rs because there is a great potential improvement in taking advantage on use of better design and more appropriate calculations of necessary sample size."
  • "Epidemiological research" and "data collection from the fish farming industry" were also mentioned as possible pre-studies or alternative to experimental studies. 
  • Better knowledge of the genetic background of the fish used was required. 

Many of the participants had comments on the topic "Do fish feel pain?"

  • The importance of providing better knowledge and the problem of definitions were mentioned, along with the need to give fish the benefit of the doubt. 
  • The need for indicators for monitoring pain and/or distress were mentioned, especially in relation to implementation of earlier endpoints in fish studies. 
  • One participant wrote: 'Don't get too hung up on "pain" in fish, everyone agrees that they want to take care of the fish well and minimize stress - need to think more like a fish.'

Statistical data on the number of fish used in research in different countries.  

  • In UK they differentiate between "mild, moderate and substantial" effects on the animals used. The main focus can then be aimed at reducing the number of animals used in research with "substantial" effects. One participant wrote: "Could we agree on a prioritised list of the types of experiments/treatments that are most ethically problematic? We must try to decide where to start and how to rank the problems we may cause (in the eyes of the general public)."
  • Reporting of "control fish" in the same category as the experimental fish undermines the statistics. 
  • The importance of including clear definitions along with the statistical data was stressed.

Knowledge on "best practice"

  • Several participants focused on the need for an overview of anaesthetics for the different fish species in different situations. 
  • Some participants were negative / sceptical to the use of "chilling" as anaesthesia. 
  • Guidelines should be made general and allow for using the "best practice" available. Continuous updating of "best practice" is therefore important. 
  • Maybe separate guidelines should be used for wild fish and domesticated fish. Focus for wild fish should be on proper methods of capture and handling, while the focus on domesticated fish should be on holding and rearing.
  • Important to share knowledge on good and bad fish models. 
  • A web-page with updated information on "best practice" and possibilities for debate would be helpful, especially until well validated protocols are established.

Comments from one of the participants at the meeting: 
Michael Axelsson, Professor in Comparative Physiology, Department of Zoology, Göteborg University, Sweden

Different countries define and report research differently and this is sometimes confusing when discussing different aspects

The arbitrary line drawn to define animals that are covered and not covered by the legislation is also interesting and confusing since their seems not to be any valid group for the definitions

It is also interesting that within the protected group (vertebrates) the definition when to start protecting the animals differ, in Canada first feeding was used to define the level of development that is needed before the legislation starts and other countries have other levels. This could be potentially important for the statistical reporting when a large number of eggs from one female are produces and only a subsample of the larvae are used  

Some of the speakers clearly talk about commercial fish farming and not about research animals 

It is clear that Norway are VERY focused on fish aquaculture and that the lines between research and commercial farming is sometimes hard  to draw

A lot of talks about guidelines, one danger is that guidelines will not be regarded as guides by the authorities but as rules and then the outcome will be very different from the intentions

Depending on the vast number of fish species and differences in habitat it is almost impossible to come up with more than "common sense" guides

There were talks about licensed breeders of fish similar to the mammalian research animals and that is fine as long as the option to use wild fish is still open when this is needed

Training of all personnel that handle animals is very important and I think that the practical part should be more in focus

Different countries also have different regulations for the training of people in lab animal science before they can work with research animals, this could possibly the harmonized

It is interesting to see the view from animal rights groups and governmental organ on scientist as ignorant people that love to inflict pain in animals for no reason. Every serious scientist (and there are unserious people in this line of work as in any other occupation)  know that it is important to reduce the pain/stress/suffering of the animals to obtain good results so even if it is not for the best of the animal care is taken to get good results. In many cases the scientists also have much better knowledge about their animals that the inspecting agencies especially when working with non-traditional lab animals such as fish.

Much of the discussion was also on pain and as pointed out this can be regarded as unimportant since as scientists we know that we get both primary and secondary stress signs if we are not careful to avoid different kinds of stressors such as nociceptive stimuli (regardless of if the animal suffer or can perceive this as pain) so therefore it is reduces as much as possible.

It was interesting to hear the discussion about the euthanasia. To start with  I strongly react to the use of the wording "humane killing methods", we should use euthanasia instead since this word means "good death".
Secondly it was interesting to hear about the lack of knowledge about different methods and the lack of understanding of physics. To my opinion the only acceptable way to kill an poikilotherm animal is to destroy the brain physically if possible combined with prior sedation or anesthesia.

The environmental enrichment for fish is an interesting field and can only be solved on a species specific level through preference tests, but this type of studies should be performed to optimize the situation for the animals and the results of the study. 

Some things that have been discussed at this meeting clearly shows that there is a lack of communication between different groups (scientists, governmental organs, animal right groups) and it is interesting to see how relatively old techniques are presented and received as new information by a large proportion of the audience (in many different fields)
This points to a serious problems, information and the spread of information, a European website or national one could be part of the solution but the information must be dynamic which means that the cost for maintaining the site will be high (personal costs).

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