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Summary

The present study compares fin damages in gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) according to their wild, escaped or farmed origins. In addition, the potential applicability of fin condition indices (Fin Erosion Index ‘FEI’ and Fin Splitting Index ‘FSI’) as identification tools is discussed. Farmed seabream fins evidenced more erosion and splitting (FEI ± SD: 2.1 ± 0.3; FSI ± SD: 1.9 ± 0.6) than wild seabream fins (FEI: 0.8 ± 0.6; FSI: 1.2 ± 0.9), a result of farming conditions in open-sea cages. Escaped seabream fin erosion was between that of farmed and wild seabream (FEI: 1.6 ± 0.4), which could indicate that fins in farmed fish recover over time from farming abrasions once they are in the wild. However, the fins of escaped seabream seem to be weaker than those of the wild fish, and therefore might be more susceptible to suffer other types of erosion such as splitting or nipping (FSI: 2.3 ± 0.7). No significant differences were found in seabass FEI according to their origins, although wild seabass presented significantly more split caudal fins (FSI: 3.3 ± 2.8) than the farmed seabass (FSI: 1.2 ± 1.1) and escapees (FSI: 2.5 ± 1.6). Therefore, FEI for seabream could be used as tools not only to distinguish between wild and farmed fish, but also to identify recent escapees, improving further assessments on the contribution of seabream escapees in fishery landings. However, the healing potential of damaged fins must be considered for the proper identification of escapees. Use of fin condition indices from both species could be helpful for aquaculture management, to assess fish welfare in fish farms stocks, and improve the knowledge of handling, stock densities and open-sea cage environment conditions.