The objective of this study was to assess the effects of transportation of marketable eel (0.15 kg) in the Netherlands with respect to welfare. Eels (Anguilla anguilla) were obtained from a commercial farm and acclimatized for 7 weeks at the laboratory. Fish were transported according to regular commercial procedures. The animals were placed in water-filled transport tanks on the trailer. Fish density increased from 72 kg m-3 (husbandry) to 206 kg m-3 (fasting) and was further increased to 270–290 kg m-3 during transport. Fish transport lasted 3 h after which the eels were returned to laboratory recirculation systems to measure parameters indicative of stress load, i.e. mortality, plasma cortisol, lactate and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) as well as gill morphology. Samples were taken at 0, 6, 24, 48 and 72 h after transport in transported fish and non-transported counterparts (controls). Transportation affected water quality within known tolerable limits. No mortality during or after transport was observed. After 6 h, plasma cortisol levels had returned to baseline. However, energy metabolism had increased suggesting that transportation of eels resulted in an increased energy demand that lasted for at least 72 h in the fasted animals. Thus, it is conceivable that exposure to adverse conditions, prior to stunning/killing, in a slaughterhouse may result in allostatic overload in eel.
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