Horizon Europe project to enhance animal health and welfare in EU fish farming

A new project funded by the EU Horizon Europe programme aims to optimise animal health and welfare within the European fish farming sector.

The Cure4Aqua project will bring together a team of researchers from 16 countries. The goal of the endeavour is to improve aquatic animal health and welfare in the European aquaculture industry, developing strategies to mitigate diseases that currently plague the fish farming sector. Cure4Aqua will also support the environmentally-friendly, inclusive, safe, and healthy production of seafood.

What challenges are facing European fish farming?

Fish farming is an environmentally friendly method for providing a source of protein for food and animal feed and has a low carbon footprint that is essential for building sustainable food systems, although problems persist. A major challenge of the sector is controlling pathogens that harm aquatic animals.

This is particularly prevalent in Europe, where there is a wide variety of species and production systems, which inhibits the implementation of effective husbandry practices designed for each aquatic species.

How will Cure4Aqua improve animal health and welfare?

Cure4Aqua has been awarded €4.8 million by the EU Horizon Europe programme and will run for 4.5 years, finishing in April 2027. The project will pioneer new strategies to combat aquatic fish diseases through advanced prophylaxis and technologies for early disease detection. Cure4Aqua will also support the development of alternative treatments to replace pharmaceuticals in disease control.

Ivona Mladineo, the project coordinator of Cure4Aqua, from the Institute of Parasitology (BCAS) in the Czech Republic, explained: “Research must be at the forefront of positive changes that will ensure our food systems are sustainable while caring about high health and welfare standards for fish.

“There is an urgent need to solve some of the major shortcomings and constraints that the European aquaculture industry is facing. Cure4Aqua will address these issues by building a co-creative approach with other players interested and involved in aquaculture. I am looking forward to leading this vital project.”

The project will bring together industry-leading experts to take the following key actions:

  • Develop cost-effective vaccines to prevent diseases in farmed fish;
  • Implement selective breeding programmes to improve stress and disease management;
  • Develop innovative, biobased, and sustainable alternatives to antibiotics for controlling fish diseases at various life stages;
  • Develop new tools and Artificial Intelligence-based technology to improve fish health and welfare;
  • Improve diagnostics of fish pathogens; and
  • Integrate farmer and fish welfare as a priority of aquaculture production by developing high welfare standards considering different life stages, production systems, and knowledge of welfare needs.

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