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Study Shows Marine Harvest Canada's Antibiotic Use Low and Declining

Lucy Towers
09 January 2014, at 12:00am

CANADA - A new study published last month in the Canadian Veterinary Journal shows that Marine Harvest Canada's (MHC) ongoing process improvements is making huge strides towards the elimination of antibiotic use for its farm-raised salmon.

Trends in antimicrobial use in Marine Harvest Canada farmed salmon production in British Columbia (Morrison and Saksida, 2013) compares nine years of data that shows low and reduced use of medicines at MHC and industry wide (Figure 1) due to improved fish husbandry, effective vaccines, and the company's move to producing only Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

The use of antibiotics in food production has become an increased focus of consumers who want to know what medicines may have been fed to food animals. The use of medicines in British Columbia (BC) farm-raised salmon differs from use in other Canadian agri-foods because all treatments are prescribed by a veterinarian, reported to regulatory authorities, never used prophylactically (to prevent illness) or to promote growth, and have been publicly reported since 1995.

"The improvements and changes BC salmon farmers have made in the past decade have significantly improved our salmon's health," says Dr Diane Morrison, lead author of the study and Director of Fish Health and Food Safety at MHC.

"These improvements have nearly eliminated the need to treat our fish with antibiotics."

Morrison and Saksida suggest specific improvements from 2003 to 2011 have helped to reduce antimicrobial usage in BC farm-raised salmon: improved location and environmental conditions on farms; improved vaccine efficacy (oil versus water based products); improved fish health and better disease screening; health management plans which include biosecurity, freshwater/saltwater husbandry and improved broodstock screening.