Chilean farmers not forthcoming in antibiotic use, Oceana claims

Published on
September 18, 2020

Marine conservation activist non-governmental organization Oceana has accused a handful of Chilean salmon farming companies as being less than cooperative in providing information regarding the amount of antibiotics used in their production processes.

In August, Chile’s Council for Transparency (CPLT) ruled that the national fisheries service, Sernapesca, must deliver disaggregated information on the use of antibiotics and biomass produced in 2018. Salmon companies had previously pushed back against the petition for information, claiming it was confidential information whose disclosure would affect their commercial rights.

Most companies have since complied with the CPLT ruling, allowing Sernapesca to send the data to Oceana, with the exception of Invermar, AquaChile, Acuimag, Aguas Claras, and Exportadora Los Fiordos. These five firms have claimed the petition is illegal and have appealed their cases to the Puerto Montt Court of Appeals, seeking to nullify CPLT’s resolution.

“In 2014, when we made the first request for information on the matter, the Council for Transparency refused to deliver the information. We had to go to the Supreme Court, which ruled in our favor in recognizing the people's right to access information that could potentially affect their health or the environment,” Oceana Chile Executive Director Liesbeth van der Meer said in August. “This ruling establishes transparency as the guiding principle.”

Despite the ruling, Oceana said multiple companies have continued to refuse to hand over the information.

“On multiple occasions, we have shown that the information has no commercial value, so we believe that the companies that oppose it seek to cover up an excessive use of antibiotics,” van der Meer said. “There is a double standard in the industry, because most of these companies speak of sustainability and transparency in their reports, and then they sue in court to prevent the delivery of the information.”

Speaking at the beginning of the year, Sernapesca Deputy Director Marcela Lara announced that antimicrobial use in Chile’s salmon farming industry had decreased nearly 45 percent in the last five years and 6 percent during the first half of 2019 alone.

The reduction was due to the implementation of various measures, including the online system of veterinary prescriptions, antimicrobial-free certification, the manual of best practices, and particularly increased information transparency. Transparency, Lara said, speaking at the presentation of the Program for the Optimized Use of Antimicrobials in Salmon Farming (PROA/Salmon) – a government initiative that seeks to maintain a progressive decrease in the use of these treatments in Chile’s salmon production – is essential for proper management and efficient antimicrobial use.

Chile’s senate is currently pushing through legislation that calls for greater transparency in salmon farming. The bill would make it mandatory for all salmon farms to publish monthly reports on production, the use of antibiotics, and mortalities.

“The prompt approval of this bill is extremely important, because today the Transparency Law allows companies to delay the delivery of information for up to four years, preventing access to information of public interest,” Oceana Chile Director of the Campaign Against Marine Pollution Javiera Calisto said. “People have the right to know the information that can affect the environment and their health, without having to go through lengthy judicial processes to access it.” 

Photo courtesy of gg-foto/Shutterstock

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