The Beacon

Chilean Salmon Industry Found to Use Highest Amount of Antibiotics Worldwide

Salmon farming in Chile. (Photo: Oceana / Cristian Perez)

A new report found that the Chilean salmon farming industry used an astounding amount of antibiotics in 2013—the highest amount out of any country. The report by Chile’s National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service revealed that the industry used over 993,000 pounds of antibiotics in 2013.

“It’s not normal that an industry requires 993,000 pounds of antibiotics to work. If companies are not able to produce clean, then its activity cannot be tolerated, especially in an ecosystem like Patagonia that can be the basis of other sustainable economic activities,” Oceana in Chile executive director Alex Muñoz said in a press release.

Chile is the second largest producer of salmon after Norway, yet Norway used significantly less antibiotics and had more success than Chile in 2013. Norway used 2,100 pounds of antibiotics for the year, compared to the staggering hundreds of thousands that Chile used.

To make matters worse, 50 Chilean salmon companies refused to disclose the amount and type of antibiotics they used. The companies claim that “such disclosure would threaten their business competitiveness,” according to the press release. Oceana filed a report to the Transparency Council earlier this month about those companies. 

“The fact that companies prevent authorities from informing the public for the sole purpose of ensuring their commercial interests reveals that their interest is to profit at the expense of communities and environmental degradation,” said Muñoz.

Antibiotics in open net-cage aquaculture are used in the salmon industry to treat disease since these fish are exposed to diseases and parasites in the open ocean. While antibiotic use may ward off disease in these fish, there’s concern that overuse of these antibiotics—many of which are used to treat human disease—may cause human antibiotic resistance, according to Food and Water Watch. This problem won’t just be confined in Chile, since most of the salmon eaten in the United States comes from Chile.

In 2007, Chile’s salmon farming industry nearly collapsed after an outbreak of a deadly virus killed off half of the country’s salmon stocks. Five years later, after new sanitary measures were taken by salmon companies, the industry has recovered.

Oceana in Chile works to persuade the Chilean government to ban quinolones, a family of antibiotics that are not approved for use in aquaculture in the U.S. or in other countries due to their negative effect on the human immune system. Oceana also campaigns to stop the expansion of salmon fishing in Chile, while also aiming to raise the environmental and sanitation standards for current farmed salmon. Click here to learn more.


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