The international marine conservation organization Oceana welcomed the government of Chile’s plan for addressing antibiotic use in salmon aquaculture. The Ministry of Economy unveiled the plan, titled Use and Management Plan for Antibiotics in Salmon Aquaculture today. The plan, whose presentation was pending since December, is part of the commitment made by the Salmon Task Force to confront the sanitary crisis facing the salmon industry since last year and should significantly reduce the serious environmental and health problems that have been created by the excessive use of antibiotics by this industry.
“The announcement made by the government’s Salmon Task Force is a crucial step for reducing the use of antibiotics used by the salmon industry. It includes many of the criteria that the FAO and WHO, medical associations, and conservation organizations such as Oceana insisted must be part of this plan. Now it’s time to make sure that the reduction will take place quickly,” said Alex Munoz, vice president for Oceana in South America.
Oceana actively participated in the construction of the plan, sending scientific reports and making specific policy recommendations to the government of Chile. Among other points, Oceana proposed the necessity of authorizing only the therapeutic use and not the preventive use of the antibiotics in veterinary use; fixed limits on the density of caged salmon to improve the sanitary conditions of the farm, and the promotion of the development of vaccines that replace the use of antibiotics; and the implementation of a detailed public information system regarding the antibiotic use. All of these recommendations were included in the announced plan.
Oceana regrets that the Salmon Task Force didn’t consider the prohibition of the animal use of the quinolone family of antibiotics. The use of these antibiotics in animals isn’t authorized in other countries, including the United States, a major buyer of Chile’s exported salmon, given its efficiency in combating human illness and its particular capacity to produce resistance in bacteria.
“Although the plan includes most of our proposals, now we have to work for the implementation the measures that were not included this time, such as the prohibition of quinolones,” said Crisian Gutierrez, campaign director of salmon aquaculture for Oceana. “Important markets like North America have expressed their concern with this situation and the logical thing to do is to have our regulation consistent with the needs of those markets.”
According to Oceana, data from 2005 indicates that more than 80% of the antibiotics given to farmed salmon in Chile are quinolones, whose use, scientists say, should be restricted to humans to avoid the rise of bacterial resistance, which the World Health Organization ranks as one of the biggest public health problems in the world.
It’s important to note that the bacterial resistance caused by the abuse of these substances doesn’t just occur in salmon, but also in the bacteria present in the environment surrounding the fish farms and in the area’s wild fish that are sold in local markets. An Oceana investigation demonstrated that human-consumed wild fish (bass, grouper, and wild trout) fished around the cages in Cochamo in Patagonia have ingested salmon feed, and the meat of some of them contained antibiotics used in salmon aquaculture. This lack of regulation and control could mean the loss of effectiveness of the antibiotics used, not only in the salmon but also in people, and constitutes a serious public health problem.
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Annelore Hoffens – Communications
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