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Farmed salmon. (Photo: SalmonChile)

Supreme Court forces salmon companies to reveal data on antibiotics

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Monday, July 10, 2017, 23:10 (GMT + 9)

The Supreme Court dismissed a complaint filed by the salmon industry against the ministers of the Court of Appeals, which sought to overrule the sentence ordering the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (SERNAPESCA) to publish information disaggregated by company -- requested by Oceana -- on antibiotics used by the Chilean salmon industry during 2014.

In the ruling, the maximum court rules out that the ministers had committed serious misconduct or abuse, and confirms what was said by the Court of Appeals, which rejected the hypothesis of business secrecy held by the union. In this regard, it stated that "the information must be known by public opinion given the importance that the salmon industry has for human consumption."

The executive director of Oceana Chile, Liesbeth van der Meer, welcomed the ruling issued last Thursday.

"After a long legal battle in which salmon farmers systematically refused to release information of public relevance, using loopholes to prevent citizens from learning about an essential issue for public health and the environment, finally the Supreme Court, in a sharp decision, supports us," said van der Meer.

It must be recalled that at the end of May 2016, the Court of Appeals accepted the claim of Oceana and ordered SERNAPESCA to deliver the information requested. This happened after 37 salmon companies, and later the Council for Transparency, refused to provide such information.

At that time, the Court ruled out that trade competitiveness would be affected, and stated in a clear manner that "the fact remains that the Council for Transparency chooses to maintain certain niches of secrecy, in a system in which advertising is the general rule and hermeticism is the exception."
"This is a triumph for transparency and consumers, it is necessary that from now on all salmon companies publicly report the use of antibiotics in a disaggregated way and we do not have to wait years to know the information," said the executive director of Oceana Chile.

"It is necessary to create efficient and effective measures so that the industry finally reduces the use of antibiotics in a substantial way in its productive process," she added.

In another ruling, the Supreme Court decided to accept the complaint filed by the salmon industry regarding another request for information from Oceana on the use of antibiotics between 2009 and 2013. In this case, the Court considered that the required background are strategic for each company, even though the Court of Appeals had dismissed that argument, noting that "it is not sensitive in terms of affecting the commercial or economic activity of the companies that have opposed."

"We hope that the Supreme Court ruling ordering transparency in the use of antibiotics will be an incentive to improve both the tools for access to public information and the monitoring of companies for strengthening democracy," said van der Meer.

"The information to be disclosed by the industry will demonstrate that salmon firms' intention not to deliver the record is related to concealing the abusive use of antibiotics rather than protecting confidential information," van der Meer said.

According to the latest "Report on the use of Antimicrobials for National Salmon Production 2016", Chilean companies used 382,500 kilos of antibiotics to produce 727,812 tonnes of salmon while Norway used 523 kilos to produce twice as much salmon, according to the latest data available from the European country.

Related articles:

- Constitutional Court rules in favour of salmon firms in 'antibiotics case'
- Ruling on Chilean salmon firms to reveal if excessive antibiotics are used

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Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  SalmonChile - Asociación de la Industria del Salmón A.G

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