Companies Marine Harvest, now Mowi, and Ventisqueros, the latter in the spotlight for a massive escape of salmon from one of their farms, refused to comply with a sentence issued by the Council for Transparency ordering them to provide Oceana with data on their use of antibiotics in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and filed a complaint of illegality before the Court of Appeals, arguing that the information requested compromises their commercial and economic rights.
“Faced with the same data requested in previous years, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals established that this information is of interest to the public because it compromises the health of people and the environment, and allowed us to gain access to it”, said Javiera Calisto, Marine Pollution Campaign Manager at Oceana Chile. “However, these two companies continue to hide information, while the rest of the salmon farms agreed to provide data, which clearly indicates there is no commercial damage”, she added.
In February 2018, through the transparency law, Oceana requested the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca) for the amount and type of antibiotics being used by business and salmon farm, in addition to the biomass production during years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Of a total of 24 companies, 18 refused to provide data, after which Oceana turned to the Council for Transparency, an organism that determined last August that the information was public in nature, proving the marine conservation organization right. After the resolution, most of the companies complied with the sentence, allowing Oceana to access the information, except for Marine Harvest and Ventisqueros.
In previous years, the Court of Appeals of Santiago ruled in favor of Oceana twice, after salmon farming businesses refused to provide information on the use of antibiotics between 2009 and 2014. In the last sentence, issued in May 2016, the Court also dismissed that this information would affect commercial competition, highlighting the importance of social control so that “citizens can know the way in which the species they purchase and consume were produced”. In addition, the Court emphasized that “the information requested [by Oceana] seriously compromises public interest and therefore, its provision must prevail over the interests of the companies that refuse its publicity”.
“Last time we had to wait for four years to obtain the data because of the legal remedies filed by these companies”, remembered Calisto. “This is information of interest to the public, which is why it should always be available to consumers. Organizations such as Oceana should not have to display huge efforts to gain access to it”, she added.
There is currently a bill in Congress that aims to make information on the use of antibiotics separately by company and salmon farm, public through Sernapesca. “This initiative arises from the refusal of companies such as Ventisqueros and Marine Harvest, who continue to prevent this information from being easily accessible to all”, said Calisto.
Negative record of both companies
According to Marine Harvest’s Sustainability Report, the company maintains operations in at least six countries, and in 2017, in Chile, it used 417 grams per ton of fish produced, ten times more than in Scotland, where it used 41 grams per ton; in Canada the company used 22 grams, while in Norway barely 1 gram. In Ireland and Faroe Islands no antibiotics were used in salmon production.
Ventisqueros is among the five salmon farming businesses with the highest consumption rate of antibiotics per ton produced, with almost 800 grams according to data of 2015 published by Sernapesca. The company was rated seventh among 27 salmon farms with the most tons of antibiotics used between 2012 and 2014 according to a rating produced by Oceana in December 2017 with information obtained judicially and provided by Sernapesca.
According to the World Health Organization, the excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics in animal production as well as in humans is contributing to bacterial resistance, a serious public health problem. The international organization established that, if immediate measures aren’t taken, antibiotic resistance will be the first cause of death by 2050, while medical procedures such as organ transplants, C-sections, chemotherapies and the treatment for diabetes will become very high-risk.
Salmon produced by both companies is mostly exported to countries such as Brazil and the United States, however, the first people to be potentially affected by bacterial resistance would be employees at the fish farms and residents in areas close to the farms, located mainly in regions Los Lagos and Aysén.