salmon farmers

Salmon farmers cut antibiotic use by 50 percent: report

“This progress has been made thanks to a concerted effort to rear fish in a healthy environment that limits stress and reduces susceptibility to pathogens,” – BCSFA

By SeaWestNews

Salmon farmers around the world have halved their antibiotic use over the last seven years, through innovative disease control mechanisms and aquaculture stewardship, says a new sustainability report from the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI).

Representing 50% of the global farmed salmon industry, the latest GSI sustainability report documents the environmental performance and nutritional profile of farm-raised salmon of the world’s major suppliers.

The report also highlights the eco-efficiencies of farming salmon compared with land-based animal protein, which include lower carbon footprint, higher protein retention and more efficient use of feed resources.

“Aquaculture is the fastest growing global food sector, and as such we felt it was important to document the contribution farmed salmon can make to healthy, sustainable diets,” said Sophie Ryan, GSI’s Chief Executive Officer.

“Within this report, we have outlined the environmental performance and nutritional content of farm-raised salmon, allowing people to make informed choices based on up-to-date information, as well as showing where and how we plan to make further progress.”

The GSI is a leadership effort established by global farmed salmon CEOs to drive positive change at scale to offer healthy food, produced with minimal environmental impact.

British Columbia’s salmon farmers are among the top performers when it comes to reduction in the use of antibiotics with less than 5 percent of their farmed salmon requiring antibiotics during their lifetime.

Between 1996 and 2017, use of antibiotics at B.C. salmon farms declined from 516 grams per tonne of salmon to just 59 grams, a 775 per cent reduction.

“This progress has been made thanks to a concerted effort to rear fish in a healthy environment that limits stress and reduces susceptibility to pathogens,” said Shawn Hall, a spokesperson for the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA).

“Fish receive preventative vaccinations before going into ocean pens, and once in the pens are regularly visited by trained fish health professionals and licensed veterinarians to monitor their health. If disease-causing bacteria is detected on a farm, a veterinarian will review the data and prescribe antibiotics if appropriate,” he said.

B.C.’s ocean-based Atlantic salmon farmers, who support 7,000 middle-class jobs contributing $1.5 billion to the local economy every year, were among the first to sign on to the Global Salmon Initiative.

They are on track to be 100 per cent certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) within the next few years. To achieve certification under the ASC Salmon Standard, farms are audited against 500 separate aspects of the site’s performance. It is considered to be the gold standard in environmental and social certification.

Key trends from the GSI Sustainability Report include:

  • A 50% reduction in the use of antibiotics over the past 7 years, which can be attributed to the improvements in antibiotics stewardship, disease control and fish welfare of GSI members;
  • In 2019, over 710,000 tonnes of GSI member’s farmed salmon was sold as Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified, representing almost 65% of GSI members’ total production. The farms continue their journey to achieving 100% ASC certification; ASC is recognized as the most rigorous environmental standard for aquaculture;
  • A shift towards a more holistic approach to preventing and managing sea lice has resulted in a 50% decrease in medicinal use, and a 130% increase in non-medicinal approaches since 2013;
  • Continuing efforts to accelerate availability and uptake of alternative responsible feed ingredients, such as novel oils (algae and canola crops) and fish by-products, are supporting a growing industry to reduce its dependence on marine ingredients;
  • When compared with other animal proteins, farmed salmon represents an environmentally conscious choice, with a lower carbon footprint, requiring less land, and more efficient use of feed resources. Farmed salmon provides a nutrient-dense food which supports healthy diets.

To view the GSI Sustainability Report, please click here.

Image shows Sophie Ryan, GSI’s Chief Executive Officer.