Chile salmon farming companies must disclose antibiotic use, court rules

Published on
June 2, 2016

Following a yearlong court battle, a Chilean court upheld a request by the environmental group Oceana that requires the Chilean aquaculture industry to disclose details surrounding the antibiotics they use in their salmon farming operations.

The industry, which produced around 895,000 metric tons of farmed salmon in 2014 – good enough to rank it the second-largest producer in the world – has refused to release the details of its antibiotic use, arguing that doing so would pose a "competition and commercial risk,” according to a Reuters article.

“We hope this ruling … ends the lack of transparency and grants the people something as fundamental as access to information of public interest that is directly related to health and the environment, " Liesbeth van der Meer, interim executive director of Oceana Chile, said in a statement on the organization’s website.

Chilean salmon farmers have been fighting a virulent bacteria known as SRS (or Piscirickettsiosis), which sickens and eventually kills infected fish. Failing to find an effective vaccine, they have increasingly relied on antibiotics to fight the bacteria. According to Reuters, the industry used about 1.2 million pound (563,200 kg) of antibiotics in 2014, up 25 percent from the year before.

The industry does already provide detailed data on its use of antibiotics to Sernapesca, the government’s fisheries group. But Sernapesca does not provide the data sought by Oceana on antibiotic use broken down by company and individual farm sites.

In a statement, Sernapesca Deputy Director Alicia Gallardo said her organization “welcomed” the ruling.

“We believe this new ruling strengthens transparency and the legitimate public interest in knowing the actions of this industry,” Gallardo said. “We call on the industry to abide by this ruling and enable the delivery of the requested information.”

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