Court Says Antibiotic Use in Chilean Fisheries Should Be Public Knowledge

The organization Oceana won a landmark case last week against the Chilean government. The appeal, which went up against the National Fisheries and Agricultural Services (Sernapesca) found the judges unanimously decided that the Council for Transparency had to release its data regarding antibiotic usage in Chilean salmon.

The lawsuit began some time back, when reports were released that showed staggeringly high amounts of antibiotic usage within Chilean salmon fisheries. Salmon in Chile is susceptible to a disease called Piscirickettsiosis which can cause hemorrhaging, organ failure and death in salmon. A report by Reuters earlier this year showed Costco, along with a number of U.S. chains, had cut the amount of Chilean salmon it was buying in favor of salmon from Norway – which generally uses fewer antibiotics (although it should be noted that numbers for last year’s antibiotic use were not available from Norway). 

However, those within the industry contest this accusation. They say the antibiotics used save these fish and heal them from the bacteria. They maintain that the fish are then weaned off these medications until no traces remain, before being shipped to market. Ricardo Garcia, the chief executive at Camanchaca, a large salmon producer in Chile, told Reuters that, “The final product consumers eat has no antibiotics.”

Rival marketers within the salmon industry, such as Norway, soon jumped on the bad press, marketing their salmon as ‘antibiotic free’ in stores like Costco. However, Jon Hindar, the CEO of Cermaq, which has fisheries in Chile, Canada and Norway, told Undercurrent that buyers need to be savvy on how antibiotics are used, echoing Garcia’s claim that fish are weaned off antibiotics prior to being sold, “In marketing related to use of antibiotics, it is important to not create an illusion that there is fish with and fish without antibiotics,” Hindar said. “As there are no antibiotics in any farmed fish when harvested.”

However, many activists are quick to point out that a very specific procedure is required for antibiotic use in fish aquaculture. And many are concerned if procedures aren’t being properly followed it can lead to a host of problems in humans. This includes resistance to antibiotics and the creation of superbugs within the human population.

Such concerns led Oceana to ask for the data from 50 companies operating salmon fisheries within Chile. Specifically they wanted to know the amount and type of antibiotics used. When those companies denied that data they went to the Council for Transparency. When the Council for Transparency also refused to release the information, they took it to the Court of Appeals.

According to a press release by Oceana:

The Council stated that the National Fishing Service is not required to provide information disaggregated by company as this would impair their competitive position in the markets. Oceana submitted a judicial claim against the decision made by the Council before the Court of Appeals in Santiago.

Now that the Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Oceana, there is little doubt that information on antibiotic use within Chile will soon be made public. This has many within food safety and conservation industries hopeful that the veil of secrecy is slowly being dismantled when it comes to what sort of antibiotics are going into our food.

Photo Credit: Ewan Munro/Wikimedia


Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago


Emma Z
Past Member about a year ago

Thank you

Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thank you for posting.

Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago


Clare O
Clare Oabout a year ago


Chad A
Chad Aabout a year ago

Thank you.

Carole R
Carole Rabout a year ago

The court is right. Everyone has a right to know what they're putting in their bodies.

Sue H
Sue Habout a year ago

I do wonder if we now have more transparency?

Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a year ago


cara d
cara dabout a year ago

another something you did not know