February 28, 2024


Concerns raised over antibiotic residues found near salmon farms in Tasmania, Australia



Tassal, the leading salmon company in Tasmania, Australia, has acknowledged the presence of antibiotic residues in wild fish near one of its salmon farms, detailed in two recent reports from the country's Environment Protection Authority (EPA), The Guardian reported.


This issue has raised concerns about transparency and antibiotic use in public waterways.


According to the EPA reports published in January 2024, Tassal used a significant amount of a controversial antibiotic to control disease outbreaks at two salmon farms last year. No public notification was issued when the antibiotics were used or when the monitoring reports were released.


Sheenagh Neill from Marine Protection Tasmania expressed concerns about the lack of transparency regarding antibiotic use. Despite recommendations for timely information disclosure following a Legislative Council inquiry in 2022, there has been ongoing secrecy surrounding antibiotic use in public waterways.


The reports revealed that Tassal used oxytetracycline (OTC) to treat disease outbreaks at its salmon farms in late February and early March 2023, as well as in May 2023. OTC is classified as "highly important" by the World Health Organisation, and its overuse can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


Following the use of antibiotics, the EPA requires salmon companies to conduct tests for residues in sediments and wild fish near the treated cages. Alarmingly, samples of blue mackerel near Tassal's Butlers lease contained OTC residues almost five times the permitted level. Similar traces were found in other fish caught further away from the farm.


Dr Christian Narkowicz, an organic chemist, criticized Australia's maximum residue standard for OTC, emphasizing the need for stricter regulations aligned with international standards. He highlighted the risks posed to public health by antibiotic residues in wild-caught fish.


The EPA stated that additional testing was unnecessary despite the initial high levels of OTC found in the fish. However, Neill argued that such delays in further testing were unacceptable, especially considering the potential health implications for consumers.


There are calls for a review of OTC use in fish for human consumption by Food Standards Australia, with suggestions to align allowable OTC levels in salmon with European standards.


-      The Guardian

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