Fish and Shellfish Health and Welfare in Aquaculture

Wageningen University & Research has long-standing experience with studying Fish and Shellfish Health and Diseases. We study the complex interactions between fish and shellfish, and their pathogens, and translate such knowledge into disease diagnosis and preventive measures. Our preventive approaches are geared towards enhancement of natural resistance, through immune stimulation of fish and shellfish and through vaccination of fish.

Diagnosis of fish and shellfish

At the specialised fish and shellfish diseases laboratory of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR), accredited and fast diagnostics are performed to identify new outbreaks at an early stage. Our laboratory is the one and only complete laboratory in the Netherlands for diseases of cultured fish for human consumption, ornamental fish, wild fish and shellfish.

Fish vaccinology

Aquaculture species differ in their immune defences; while invertebrates lack adaptive immunity found in finfish, their innate immune system is crucially important for survival. Innate immunity allows for immune training, adaptive immunity makes vaccination possible. At the Aquaculture and Fisheries (AFI) group, we use fundamental, comparative knowledge on the complex immune system, to understand antiviral innate immunity and to trigger adaptive immunity against experimental vaccines for oral delivery.

Fish and shellfish health

Finfish and shellfish have in common their reliance on innate immunity and e.g. phagocytic cell types to fight off the first waves of infection with pathogens. At the Aquaculture and Fisheries (AFI) group, we use fundamental, comparative knowledge on innate immunity to help formulate immuno-modulating diets and study how nutraceuticals and prebiotics mediate immunity via health diets.

Fish welfare

In stressful situations, fish launch an endocrine stress response with glucocorticoids as an important biomarker. Failure to regain homeostasis leads to chronic stress, affecting fish performance and welfare throughout the life cycle. At Wageningen Livestock Research (WLR), we pay special attention to animal welfare. Stunning fish prior to killing contributes to the well-being of fish and thus to social acceptance of aquaculture. We investigate different methods for electrically stunning farmed fish.

Training the next generation

At Wageningen University, we train the next group of experts in aquaculture at International Fish Immunology/ Vaccination Workshops, organised by the Aquaculture and Fisheries group. Also, you can follow our training on fish diseases via the National Reference Lab in Lelystad.