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Debunking the antibiotics myth

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Salmon producers in Norway have almost eradicated the use of antibiotics and all salmon from Norway are completely free from residuals from antibiotics or other medicines.

This was the message released by the Norwegian Seafood Council to mark The World Health Organization’s World Antibiotics Awareness Week. The campaign aims to highlight the dangers of excessive antibiotics use both in medicine and food production.

Vaccines have led to a 99 percent reduction in the use of antibiotics in Norway's salmon farming industry since the 1980s

As the council points out, effective vaccines and preventative measures are the reasons why Norway's aquaculture industry barely uses any antibiotics today. Since the late eighties, there has been a 99 percent reduction in the usage of antibiotics in Norwegian ocean-farmed salmon due to effective vaccines in the early stage of the salmon’s life cycle. The measures have been acknowledged by WHO, which has recognized Norway’s effort to reduce its use of antibiotics in fish farming.

“Antibiotic resistance poses a big threat to global health. People can feel confident that the Norwegian salmon they eat is completely free from antibiotics. The use of antibiotics in Norwegian salmon production has been replaced with effective vaccines, meaning healthier and safer fish,” says Egil Sundheim, US director of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

"Unfortunately, there are many myths regarding antibiotic use in the Norwegian aquaculture industry. One of these is that antibiotics use in the production is very high. The truth is that the usage has been almost zero for many years. Consumers can be completely confident that Norwegian farmed salmon is completely free of antibiotics," says senior researcher Kari Grave at the Veterinary Institute in Oslo.

Many medical experts warn against excessive antibiotic consumption, especially in the food industry. The consequence is resistant bacteria that can no longer be treated with antibiotics. The warnings have been acted upon by Norwegian authorities and the industry, resulting in a record low use of antibiotics. Less than 1 percent of all Norwegian salmon is now treated with antibiotics, and strict regulation means treated fish cannot be slaughtered and sold until the fish is clear of all residues of the medication.

The European Medicines Agency’s report Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 30 European countries in 2016, shows that Norway is leading by example in its efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics in food production - using less than 6 tonnes of antibiotics, despite the fact that it is the second largest seafood exporter in the world (2.6 million tonnes in 2017).