Groundbreaking news out of Chile, and it’s not about the earthquake.
As a direct result of Oceana’s campaign work to reform the Chilean salmon aquaculture industry, this week the Chilean Congress passed legislation to prevent the escape of farmed salmon and further regulate the use of antibiotics in salmon aquaculture.
The reform criminalizes farmed salmon escapes and imposes hefty fines as well as prison sentences for violators. It also bans the preventive use of antibiotics, and requires companies to make public the amounts and types of antibiotics they use, in addition to their specific prescribed use. Oceana has been working since 2008 to convince Chile to restrict the use of antibiotics in salmon farming.
Reports of salmon escapes in Chile range from 600,000 to 4 million each year. Escaped salmon can travel great distances and threaten the health of native salmon populations by competing for food, creating hybrid species and transmitting diseases, such as infectious salmon anemia (ISA).
In early 2009, Oceana reported a massive escape that took place on December 31, 2008, in which 750,000 salmon and trout escaped. Some of the escaped salmon were infected with the ISA virus. Many of the native species affected by escaped salmon are the target species for artisanal fishing, which results in economic losses estimated at $5 million annually.
The reform also requires the government to issue new regulations to prevent escapes and mitigate environmental impacts within six months from the day the bill takes effect.
A hearty congratulations to our Chilean colleagues, who are still coping with the aftermath of the massive earthquake less than two weeks ago.