Aug 08, 2016

    Chile salmon trade tries to get off antibiotic hook


    CHILE'S salmon industry, the second-largest in the world, is trying to cut back its heavy use of antibiotics, which pollute the environment and could cause new super-bacteria to emerge.

    Facing heavy competition from top producer Norway - whose industry uses a fraction of the antibiotics Chile's does - Chilean salmon farmers, pharmaceutical groups and fish food suppliers launched a programme recently to cull their controversial habit.

    Chile's coastal waters have recently been awash with a bacterium which causes bright pink sores to form on the fish's flesh.

    Last year, it killed nearly 80 per cent of the salmon that died of disease in Chile's fish farms.

    Vaccines and treatments have had little effect, giving rise to rampant antibiotics use.

    But that carries a stigma the industry now wants to shed.

    The initiative is called Pincoy, the name of the masculine spirit of the seas in local lore.

    The problem with antibiotics is they leach into the surrounding environment.

    That creates the risk that bacteria in the surrounding area will develop resistance after prolonged exposure to the medication, mutating into super-bacteria capable of causing incurable diseases.

    "In Chile, we use 500 times more antibiotics than Norway," said the head of conservation group Oceana-Chili, Liesbeth van der Meer.

    In June, a court ordered salmon farmers to publish the amount and type of antibiotics used.

    Some 557.2 tonnes of medication were injected into Chilean salmon last year, said Sernapesca, the national fisheries and aquaculture service.

    Total salmon production was 846,163 tonnes, meaning the "antibiotic rate" was 0.066 per cent.

    That was a sharp increase from 2010's 0.031 per cent.