Guidelines for use of fishes in research

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The 2004 and 2014 Guidelines were developed to provide a structure that advances appropriate attention toward valid experimental designs and procedures with aquatic animals while ensuring humane treatment of the experimental subjects. At a practical level, the Guidelines are intended to provide general recommendations on field and laboratory endeavors, such as sampling, holding, and handling fishes; to offer information on administrative matters, including regulations and permits; and to address typical ethical concerns, such as perceptions of pain or discomfort experienced by experimental subjects. These Guidelines must be recognized as guidelines. They are not intended to provide detailed instructions but rather to alert investigators to a broad array of topics and concerns to consider prior to initiating study. At a comprehensive level, the principles upon which these Guidelines are based are broadly applicable, and many of the described practices and approaches can be adapted to situations involving other aquatic animal species and conditions.

Understanding the differences between fishes and other vertebrates, especially mammals, is critically important to conducting scientifically sound research with fishes. Disparities in life histories and mortality rates in fishes versus other vertebrates are critical in designing sustainable sampling levels in fish populations. The UFR Committee points out that (1) compared to mammalian populations, adult populations of many fish species persist despite very high natural mortality rates in juvenile stages by virtue of the fact that most species lay thousands or tens of thousands of eggs; (2) because of these mortality patterns, research on fishes, especially field research or research on early life stages, can involve, and often requires, much larger numbers of research subjects than does research on mammals; and (3) the animal handling and husbandry requirements for fishes are fundamentally different from those for mammals and other vertebrates, in general. Policies, regulations, and recommendations developed for research on mammals, birds, reptiles, or even amphibians are frequently inappropriate for research with fishes. The Guidelines also address some of the ethical concerns that motivate guidelines used for research with other vertebrates, while being mindful of the unique physiology and general nature of fishes.

The Guidelines were developed for general use by investigators within the United States; therefore, the roles, responsibilities, and informational needs of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) were given specific attention. All United States institutions that use vertebrate animals for research, teaching, research training, and biological testing are required to create an IACUC to oversee and evaluate all aspects of the institution’s animal care and use program. Investigators from other nations who read this document may disregard specific references to U.S. state and federal laws and regulations, as their institutional infrastructure and processes may differ from those of an internal committee such as IACUCs. The principles described herein, however, are applicable to research on fishes regardless of geographic location. Investigators in other nations may benefit by modifying any of the specific provisions pertaining to the United States, thereby adopting guidelines consistent with the laws and regulations of their own government. The UFR Committee urges that the Guidelines be endorsed and adopted (adapted, where necessary) by those state and federal authorities with regulatory responsibilities for fishes, offices with federal oversight (e.g., National Institutes of Health, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare; as well as by universities and other institutions and authorities using fishes and aquatic animals within their research and teaching programs.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Organization Series
Title Guidelines for use of fishes in research
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher American Fisheries Society
Publisher location Bethesda, MD
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center
Description xiv, 90 p.
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