For the first time the Chilean Government revealed that the national salmon industry has been using roughly 385 tons of antibiotics, 600 times more than Norway, the main producer of farmed salmon in the world. The information was disclosed in response to a request for access to public information that the international marine conservation organization, Oceana, made to the Minister of Economy, Hugo Lavados.
Three weeks ago Oceana, utilizing the Act for Access to Public Information, asked the Minister of Economy for information on the total amount of antibiotics used by the salmon industry, disaggregated by the type or family of antibiotics. According to the report delivered by the Government, Chile used 385,635 kilograms of antibiotics in 2007, the year of pick production for the sector, and 325,616 kilograms in 2008. Approximately a third of the antibiotics reported were quinolones, a type of antibiotics that are not allowed in some countries which are important destinations for Chilean salmon, such as the United States. In comparison, Norway used close to 600 kilograms of antibiotics in 2007 to produce a similar amount of salmon as Chile that year.
"In this report, the Government confirms that the Chilean salmon industry abused the antibiotics irresponsibly. A few months ago the Government announced important measures as part of a plan to reduce the use of antibiotics in this industry, such as limiting the density of cultivation and prohibiting the preventive use of these chemicals. However, the Government should do much more if they really have the will to solve this problem. It is crucial to ban quinolone antibiotics and determine concrete goals and deadlines to drastically reduce the use of these substances," said Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana in Chile.
It should be noted that the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), have all recommended that the quinolone antibiotics only be used in humans to secure their effectiveness and importance to public health.
"Here the public's health is at stake because the abuse of these antibiotics in salmon aquaculture may reduce the effectiveness of their treatment on other diseases affecting humans. It's the duty of the State to protect the fundamental rights of the people and in particular, to not simply ensure the profitability of a business sector. Let us hope that this information, declassified for the first time, leads to the Government and the Congress taking drastic and urgent measures to correct the industry's misfeasance", added Muñoz.
In 2008, Oceana submitted to the Chilean Government a complete proposal to reduce and regulate the use of antibiotics in salmon aquaculture. Among other things, the organization recommended a ban to the prophylactic use of antibiotics in aquaculture; fixed limits on the density of caged salmon to improve the sanitary conditions of the farm, 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. While these points were included in a Plan of Use and Management of Antibiotics announced in March by the Government of Chile, Oceana regrets that the ban on the use of quinolone antibiotics on animals was not considered. The Organization will request that the National Congress approve this measure.