Arjan Palstra

Working groups

Working group 1

Workgroup 1: Functional mechanisms behind the benefical effects of swimming

Leader: Dr Paolo Domenici (IT)

Vice-Leader: Dr Gudrun De Boeck (BE)


Given that swimming is an intrinsic characteristic of fish behaviour, swimming-induced activity in fish, like in mammals, may confer beneficial physiological effects. Fish are known for their great capacity for aerobic, sustained swimming and anaerobic, burst swimming that are accomplished through the activation of red and white skeletal muscle. One of the well-known beneficial effects of swimming is the stimulation of growth. Other potential beneficial effects of swimming include the control of reproduction, modulation of the immune response and reduced stress. However, limited information is available on the mechanism(s) by which exercise potentiates growth or affects the reproductive, immune and stress systems in fish. The aim of this WG is to evaluate existing knowledge on the functional mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of swimming and identify gaps in knowledge in this area for targeting future research efforts.


  1. Organization of WG meetings and workshops to provide the state-of-the-art in a broad range of physiological responses to swimming;
  2. Discussion of integrated knowledge on the physiological effects of swimming and evaluation of high-throughput biochemical and molecular techniques for its study;
  3. Publication of reviews or book chapters summarizing the information synthesized in this WG.


    1. Synthesis of knowledge on the functional mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of swimming-induced exercise in fish;

    2. Establishment of a network of scientists that will pursue the common goal of understanding further the physiological effects of swimming, that will assess the technical appropriateness of various research approaches and that will elaborate research proposals to fund its objectives;

    3. Publication of summarized information on the beneficial physiological effects of swimming in the form of reviews in scientific journals, chapters in edited books and technical documents.

    Working group 2

    Working group 2: Fish Migration

    Leader: Dr. Leo Nagelkerke (NL)

    Vice-Leader: Mr Johannes Sturlaugsson (IS)


    Migratory fish species form an essential part of the ecological quality of surface waters. The strong human influence on many water bodies in Europe has had detrimental effects on populations of migratory fish species, which have declined or even disappeared in many cases. Measures to restore migration have, until now, a strong ad hoc, or case-study character. Therefore there is need for a profound, integrative scientific approach, leading to a framework for analysing migration and the design of effective measures. Moreover, existing knowledge is often scattered, or poorly accessible, because it is not published as scientific peer-reviewed papers. The aim of this WG is to exchange and integrate knowledge among scientists and experts involved in the field and to develop a research agenda aimed at generating new knowledge in the fields of

    1. monitoring fish behaviour in real-life situations, using a range of well-known and high-tech techniques,

    2. experimental approaches in which the effect of disturbing cues on behaviour and physiology of individual fishes is investigated, and
    3. modelling the effects of mitigating measures on population dynamics.


    1. Organization of WG meetings and workshops to exchange the latest state-of-the-art knowledge on fish migration to develop a comprehensive framework on what drives fish migration covering all relevant disciplines;

    2. Development of a research agenda aimed at a) monitoring of fish behaviour in real-life situations and in large mesocosm-scale settings, using a range of well-known and also high-tech techniques, ranging from fyke-netting, telemetry, and observations with underwater cameras and DIDSON imaging; b) an experimental approach in which the effect of a number of disturbing cues can be studied on the level of behaviour and physiology of individual fishes; and c) modelling the effects of mitigating measures on the population dynamics;

    3. Developing a toolbox to design effective and efficient options for mitigation measures aimed at ecological water quality, but also at other uses of the water bodies, such as hydropower and navigation. Such a toolbox would include one or more decision algorithms, but potentially also new technological solutions;

    4. Reporting the synthesized and newly-developed information from the WG in review papers written by the partners in the project and presented at the Action’s meetings and international scientific symposiums.


    1. An international network of fish migration experts that has international scientific, but also societal impact;

    2. A research agenda aimed at generating new scientific and applied knowledge on fish migration;

    3. A toolbox for the design and evaluation of effective and efficient mitigation measures for fish migration;

    4. A comprehensive framework on what drives fish migration, reported in a review paper written by the partners in the project and presented at international scientific symposiums.

    Working group 3

    Working group 3: Exercise in Aquaculture

    Leader: Dr Harald Takle (NO)

    Vice-Leader: Dr Helgi Thorarensen (IS)


    In aquaculture, fish robustness eludes to the ability of the fish to thrive in the face of any perturbation during production, such as pathogens, handling and environmental stress, rapid growth and development, etc. Currently, exercise training by swimming is the only available strategy for industrial use, in front of other strategies involving genetic improvement and optimization of environmental conditions. Sustained exercise training by swimming is an effective proactive preventive strategy to improve robustness of farmed fish. Furthermore, swimming training may affect specific quality characteristics such as external appearance and fillet texture that have potential to be integrated in product labelling of exercised fish. However, to date, induced swimming has had little application in commercial aquaculture operations. The aim of this WG is to gather expertise to evaluate existing swimming data, to identify gaps in our knowledge for targeting future research efforts and to design optimal swimming protocols for specific species and conditions.


    1. Organization of WG meetings and workshops to provide the state-of-the-art in exercise training by swimming in farmed fish;

    2. Discussion on available methods for measuring water current in land and sea-based systems, for monitoring physiological and immunological improvements (ref WG 1) and swimming activity (ref WG 2), and for the manipulation of swimming behaviour in production systems;

    3. Publication of reviews, book chapters or technical documents synthesizing the information recollected in this WG.


    1. Establishment of a network of scientists, industries and policy makers that will address issues related to the improvement of farming conditions by inducing swimming in farmed fish;

    2. Technological advances in the form of (a) improved protocols for measuring water current, (b) improved knowledge on monitoring swimming activity in production systems, (c) improved overview of informative biochemical markers and tests applicable for industrial use, (d) improved tank design for improved water flow, (e) novel and effective systems to motivate swimming behaviour in fish by stimulation of the optomotor response and by the use of robotic fish;

    3. Identification of the optimal exercise protocol for each of the species under consideration in view of existing infrastructures.

    Working group 4

    Working group 4: Transfer of knowledge to end users

    Leader: Dr Simon MacKenzie (UK)

    Vice-Leader: Dr Kim Aarestrup (DK)


    The successful transfer of knowledge between scientists and industry, on one hand, and policy makers, on the other hand, is a crucial determinant of the success of this Action. Measures will be put into place to facilitate this transfer of knowledge through all communication channels available. Furthermore, evaluation measures for the successful transfer of knowledge to end users will also be implemented.


    1. Organization of bilateral meetings between Action participants and industry representatives and policy makers;

    2. Drafting of technical manuals on swimming in migratory fish and on the application of swimming in aquaculture targeted to stakeholders in the industry and in regulatory and policy centres;

    3. Monitoring of the use of transferred information by the industry and regulatory and policy centres.


    1. Establishment of an information channel between scientists and the industrial sector, on one hand, and policy makers, on the other hand;

    2. Publication of technical manuals on swimming in migratory fish and on the application of swimming in aquaculture;

    3. Implementation of evaluation measures (indicators) of the successful transfer of knowledge to end users: welfare, physiological, technological and/or economic indicators of success in the industrial sector and indicators of regulatory progress towards changes in farming practices and product labelling in aquaculture.

    Working group 5

    Working group 5: Training of early stage researchers

    Leader: Dr Mirjana Lenhardt (RS)

    Vice-Leader: Dr Stefano Marras (IT)


    This WG will be specifically aimed at the training of early stage researchers. Their current expertise, skills and interests will be assessed as well as the competences that will be useful to be acquired in order to occupy a future niche in this newly emerging research field. On basis of this information, theoretical and practical training schools will be designed. Experts in the field will be invited to give shape to these schools. Besides those, early stage researchers will be given the opportunities to present their work orally and receive feedback during WG meetings as well as presenting in more official settings at the Action’s workshops and congresses that they are linked to. Finally, especially early stage researchers will have the chance to apply for funding of short term research missions by yearly calls that will be beneficial to enhance their mobility, to work in a different scientific environment, to create and strengthen collaborations, and to stimulate the flow of information and expertise.


    1. Assess competences to be acquired of potential participants;

    2. Organise annual theoretical training schools;

    3. Organise bi-annual practical training schools;

    4. Training oral dissemination skills;

    5.   Arrange short term research missions for early stage researchers by yearly calls.


    Early stage researchers with the potential to apply for personal post-doctoral research grants ( e.g. Marie Curie) and occupy future research niches in the novel field.