Things have gone swimmingly for a marine biology student from Woking who won first prize in a RSPCA award scheme for his “outstanding” research project on fish welfare.

Alex Picken, who attends Swansea University, stood out among his cohort for his new research approaches, and he was awarded the competitive 2023 award for the best dissertation on welfare in aquaculture at the university. 

His detailed project was praised for offering innovative methods into the positive welfare in manyara tilapia fish.

The third-year student’s project formed part of his aquaculture and fisheries module and made use of the university’s Centre of Sustainable Aquaculture Research. 

It was there that he was able to work on practical assignments and use of operational welfare indicators to aid research.

The award included a prestigious certificate of recognition, as well as a £100 voucher to celebrate Alex’s success.

Sponsored by RSPCA Assured, the charity’s farm welfare assurance scheme for more than 25 years, Alex’s project aligned with some of the cause’s most important values of improving animal living conditions and overall quality of life.

The charity also regularly updates welfare standards for major species farmed in the UK, which often greatly differs from typical government standards.

Emilie Wix, agriculture manager at RSPCA Assured, said: “We work closely with the aquaculture industry and our members to continuously improve standards of welfare.

“By sponsoring these student awards, we hope we can promote a greater awareness of welfare in the aquaculture industry and encourage the scientists of tomorrow to prioritise welfare.”

Professor Carlos Garcia de Leaniz, director of the university’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research, added: “Alex showed an outstanding knowledge of the welfare challenges faced in the fisheries and aquaculture industry, and we hope they will go on to have a positive impact in shaping the future industry of his career.”