The use of animals in basic and applied research is governed by both scientific objectives and ethical considerations. Heightened concern over the humane treatment of experimental animals by the scientific community and the public has led to the development of guidelines and regulations concerning animal care and use. Most of these regulations, to a large extent under the purview of the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and federal granting agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NII), are directed towards research on higher vertebrates, especially mammals. Guidelines for care and use of lower vertebrates are minimal to nonexistent and are frequently extrapolated from mammalian models. However, it appears that further regulation of lower vetebrate research is probable. This paper summarizes a panel discussion that was conducted the 14th ASTM Aquatic Toxicology Symposium on 22 April 1990. The panel consisted of two members from federal regulatory agencies (USDA and NIH) and three members from research institutions (representing industrial. Federal, and academic laboratories). The purpose of this discussion was to establish a dialogue on the care and use of lower vertebrates in research. Included is a discussion of the history and future of animal welfare legislation and how the various regulations are implemented in the three laboratory situations. Emphasis will be on fish, although the principles of animal care and use could apply to other ectotherms as well. A number of key issues need to be addressed by the scientific community relative to lower vertebrate research.