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Atlantic salmon diseases flare up in sea pens; antibiotics appearing in wild fish near farms threaten health and environment

Posted by gmarkets on 3 September, 2007

The use of antibiotics on Australia’s favourite farmed fish, Atlantic salmon, has risen disturbingly as diseases flare in their sea pens The Sydney Morning Herald (23/6/2007, p.3). Increase in the use of antibiotics threaten human health: The increase has raised strong concerns from the Tasmanian Government, which said it was nearly double the amount expected. It was a threat to human health, the environment, and salmon’s clean market image, the Primary Industries Minister, David Llewellyn, warned in documents obtained by the Herald. The antibiotics were appearing in wild fish near farms, and the Government has called for an end to the use of one drug, amoxicillin, also used on humans.

Fishing industry insists on using antibiotic treatments: The $250 million-a-year industry, which produced 22,000 tonnes of the fish, was insisting on continued access to antibiotic treatments. From 12 kilograms a year a decade ago, the antibiotics used at salmon and trout farms totalled almost eight tonnes in the first three months this year, according to departmental figures.

Double amount of Oxytetracycline used as foreseen: “It is disturbing … that the industry has used nearly double the amount of OTC (Oxytetracycline) than was anticipated in the permit application,” Llewellyn said in a letter to the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers’ Association. The farms maintained a holding Period to allow antibiotics to pass through the fish before they were harvested, but Llewellyn said there was a potential public health impact if OTC entered the human food chain through consumption of wild fish that might have eaten medicated feed outside pens, or treated salmon that escaped.

The Primary Industries Minister threatens to prohibit the use of amoxicillin : Llewellyn said a further concern was the use of the human treatment amoxicillin. Mr Llewellyn threatened to prohibit its use after the state Director of Public Health, Roscoe Taylor, told him of concerns about potential allergic reactions, and the effect on the drug of antibiotic resistant bacteria already in the sea. The industry defended the increased use of antibiotics, mostly to treat “flare-ups” of the infection marine Aeromonas, and salmon rickettsia, which could swell internal organs and lead to mass deaths.

National survey program findings find nothing wrong: The industry took part in a national residue survey program run by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries. Jungalwalla said: “These independent, random surveys have never found salmon that reaches the consumer to reach or exceed maximum permissible residue limits of antibiotics.”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 23/6/2007, p. 3

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