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You are here: HomeGrants & AwardsWild-Caught Fish Stunning Review - 2020

Wild-Caught Fish Stunning Review - 2020

Call for Research: Systematic Review and Feasibility Study – Stunning or Killing of Wild-Caught Fish in Commercial Fisheries

The award is now closed.

Billions of fish are caught for food every year, the vast majority of these fish are not stunned before killing, and there is good evidence that many wild-caught fish may experience significant suffering between the time they are captured and their death. The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) hopes to encourage the development and adoption of humane slaughter methods for fish caught in the wild.

As a preliminary step, the HSA wishes to support a systematic study into humane capture and slaughter of fish caught on a commercial scale in the wild for food. The aim of this research is to investigate the feasibility of the development and use of methods of humane stunning or stun/killing for wild-caught fish in order to minimise pain or distress in wild-capture commercial fisheries. The research should also consider the sustainability of such methods (economic, environmental, ethical and social considerations including practicality).

The research is expected to consist of three major components:

1.     An overview of the worldwide wild-capture fishing industry including:

  • Estimates of the tonnage of each species captured and the number of each species captured (where an estimate of animal numbers is feasible).
  • The method by which those species are captured and killed.
  • The geographical area where these fish are caught and the market where they are sold (since both the location of the fishery and the location of the market for the fish will affect the likelihood of the adoption of stunning).
  • The extent to which any of these fish are currently humanely stunned.
  • Reasons for lack of uptake of stunning.

2.     A Systematic Review of any existing relevant research into the stunning of wild-caught fish. This review should consider both the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the ‘grey’ literature. The review should be comprehensive and follow Systematic Review methodology by identifying all relevant studies and synthesizing the evidence, taking into account the quality of that evidence. The review should be submitted for publication in an internationally accessible, open-access peer-reviewed publication upon completion. 

The review should cover:

  • Any studies of the use of stunning methods for species of fish which are caught for food in the wild.
  • Any studies of the use of stunning devices or methods in wild-capture fishing (ie on boat stunning etc).
  • Estimates of the time between capture and death or loss of consciousness for each species.
  • Studies showing effects of stunning on flesh quality.
  • Studies considering the feasibility or economic viability of the use of stunning for wild-caught fish, especially any evidence that stunning may increase the potential price of the fish or reducing the costs of capture.
  • Any studies of methods to refine the process between capture and application of the stunning method to minimize suffering prior to stunning.
  • Studies showing any effects of such refinements on flesh quality.
  • Any studies of the cost implications of the use of stunning in wild-capture fisheries on product price.
  • Any studies on the likelihood of uptake (eg consumer willingness to pay if there is a net cost to implementation of stunning).

3.     Using the systematic review as its basis - a feasibility analysis of which fishing system, species of fish, geographical fishing area, etc is most likely to be amenable to the adoption of routine stunning of wild-caught fish. This analysis should:

  • Identify where the need for stunning is greatest (ie where animal numbers and animal suffering are greatest) and where it might be feasible to employ stunning.
  • Identify where the uptake of stunning is most likely to be feasible.
  • Consider the impact of the use of a stunning method on sustainability and identify any potential synergy between the increased use of stunning and increased sustainability.

4.     Proposals can also include any other relevant issues which the applicants propose to address as part of the study.


A total of up to £200,000 is offered. Applications will be judged on their scientific excellence as well as value for money.

The funding can be used for any direct costs of undertaking the research including staff salaries. Please note that salaries of tenured staff or others whose salaries are covered by another funding source are not normally eligible for support.

Funds cannot be used for indirect costs including university overheads.

Funds may only be used for scientific research. Funds must not be used for propaganda, campaigning or to attempt to influence legislation.

Due to the source of funding for these projects, all grant funds awarded as part of this award must be used exclusively for activities conducted outside the United States of America.

Application Process

Applications must be made on the form below.

Applications should clearly outline the research methodology, paying particular attention to the search strategy to be employed for the Systematic Review.

Applications will undergo review with the aim of making an award by April 2020.

The award is now closed.

Please note that the HSA cannot provide feedback on unsuccessful applications.


Picture: Hans-Petter Fjeld https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cod#/media/File:Gadus_morhua_Cod-2b-Atlanterhavsparken-Norway.JPG [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons


For any enquiries please contact info@hsa.org.uk

Humane Slaughter Association • The Old School • Brewhouse Hill • Wheathampstead • Hertfordshire • AL4 8AN • UK Tel: +44(0)1582 831919 • Fax: +44(0)1582 831414 • Email: info@hsa.org.uk • www.hsa.org.uk

Registered in England, Charity No 1159690.  Charitable Incorporated Organisation



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