At Seafood Expo North America on Monday, 18 March, companies representing about 80 percent of the total production of salmon in Chile vowed to reduce their use of antibiotics and seek a “Good Alternative” rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program by 2025.
Members of the Chilean Salmon Marketing Council, which include Cermaq Chile, MultiExport Foods, Australis, Salmones Camachaca, Blumar, Ventisqueros, Salmones Austral, Marine Farm, Salmones Magallanes, and AgroSuper (which owns Aquachile, Los Fiordos, and Verlasso), have all pledged to pursue a 50 percent reduction in their use of antibiotics by 2025. Verlasso received a "good alternative" rating from Seafood Watch seven years ago and does not use any preventative antibiotics, a spokesperson said in a statement to SeafoodSource.
The partnership between SalmonChile, the Chilean Salmon Marketing Council, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium will formally be known as the Chilean Salmon Antibiotic Reduction Program (CSARP). Norway-based Mowi’s Chilean operations will also participate in the initiative, SalmonChile CEO Arturo Clement told SeafoodSource at the event.
Griffin said the issue of antibiotic use has been a major one for the Chilean salmon industry for years, and that when he took over as head of the marketing council in December 2017, curbing antibiotic use was a top priority for him, as a means to achieve higher recognition in Seafood Watch’s seafood ranking system, which rates seafood as either a “Best Choice,” a “Good Alternative,” or as food to “Avoid.”
“We already have companies in Chile with positive Seafood Watch ratings. It has been my dream to see Chile’s Seafood Watch rating, as a whole country, move in a positive direction,” Griffin said. “It’s a highlight of my career to be part of the effort to achieve this goal. In the coming years, this will be our focus, and U.S. consumers and the people of the Chilean Patagonia will benefit, but the ultimate beneficiary will be the ocean and ecology of such a pristine part of the world.”
“We are at a point in our industry where we are wrestling with this head-on,” he said. “This is a very public very direct statement today about this dramatic issue.”
Arturo Clement, representing SalmonChile, the trade group representing Chile’s salmon industry, said the sector had been working toward the announcement made at Seafood Expo North America for the past year.
“Never before has our industry made such a bold commitment,” Clement said. “We are excited to work together as an industry and with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to fulfill this extremely important goal. We have made significant advances in salmon farming over the past four years and always work to minimize the use of antibiotics. Collaborating to further this work is a major step we can take toward continuous and quantifiable improvement.”
Clement said the decision was made with an eye toward the preferences of the U.S. market, which is Chile’s top export destination for its salmon.
“We would like it to be the best choice for the U.S. consumer – we want to reach their highest expectations,” he told SeafoodSource. “They are asking for a sustainable product, and for that, we believe Monterey Bay Aquarium has enough confidence from consumer side to satisfy those demands. We are very confident in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, and we decided they would be a great partner to work together with. Everybody in the Chilean salmon industry is convinced this is the best way to get to more sustainable salmon for the future.
Jennifer Kemmerly, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s director of global fisheries and aquaculture, told SeafoodSource the use of antibiotics has previously been a major hold-up of more Chilean salmon receiving a “Good Alternative” rating from the Seafood Watch program.
“The reason we chose to highlight the antibiotics issue is that it’s a big issue in our ratings system. If we can reduce antibiotics use, we can improve the sustainability of salmon coming from Chile. That will open up market access for companies that have made this very public and time-bound commitment to only buy from Seafood Watch 'Good Alternative’ sources or better,” she said.
She said if the Chilean salmon industry’s promises to reduce antibiotic use and make other moves toward more sustainable practices are kept, a “Good Alternative” rating is a reasonable outcome.
“A 50 percent reduction in antibiotic use, in concert with other improvements to the industry, could lead to a ‘Good Alternative’ recommendation,” Kemmerly said. “Improvement on that scale is excellent news for Patagonia, and for everyone around the world who enjoys Chilean salmon. We’re proud to support this work and are hopeful to see real change along the way to our 2025 goal.”
Griffin said members of SalmonChile only use antibiotics to treat salmonid rickettsial septicaemia (SRS) and that medicines are used only for animal welfare reasons.
“Our usage is completely complaint and ticks all five boxes on the [World Health Organization’s] guidance regarding antibiotic usage. When we use anitibiotics, we do so as responsibly as anybody in the world and in a way that’s completely compliant with both federal and global standards,” he said. “But we know we can do better.”