Ministry of Agriculture
Therapeutant (Antibiotic) Use in Aquaculture
As in other agricultural sectors, antibiotics can be used in fish to effectively treat bacterial diseases. However, aquaculture in BC is unique amongst the food-producing industries as antibiotics are administered by veterinary prescription. Antibiotics used in aquaculture are administered to fish in feed to treat disease - not to promote growth.
Monitoring and Control
Health Canada (Bureau of Veterinary Drugs) licenses all veterinary drugs through the Food and Drug Act. Provincially, the Ministry of Agriculture monitors sale of veterinary drugs under the Pharmacists, Pharmacy Operation and Drug Scheduling Act and Medicated Feeds regulations. As all antibiotics used in salmon (except broodstock which are not used for food) are administered through feed, monitoring the sale of medicated feeds provides the Ministry with information on antibiotics administered to farmed food fish. The Ministry of Agriculture maintains a database of this information for aquaculture.
Facts about Antibiotic Use in BC Salmon Aquaculture
- There are currently four antibiotics licensed by Health Canada for use in aquaculture.
- On average approximately 2.5% of all milled feeds are medicated each year.
- Most of the antibiotics are used in fish less than 2000 grams in size (non-food fish size).
- There are no hormones or pesticides used on food fish in the BC aquaculture industry.
- Antibiotics used in BC Aquaculture are veterinarian prescribed.
All therapeutants have a withdrawal time - a period of time after treatment ceases after which the fish are considered drug free. Withdrawal times vary depending on the therapeutant used and other factors such as water temperature. Fish cannot be harvested for food before the withdrawal period is over.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for monitoring food safety and audits all agricultural meat products for the presence of drug residues. CFIA conducts spot audits on farmed fish for the presence of drug residues.
Antibiotic Use in Salmon Farming Compared to Other Uses
With few exceptions antibiotics are used routinely in food animal populations in Canada. The possible negative consequences of widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture - especially to promote growth is under question. Over-use and inappropriate use of prescription drugs by the human population is considered by some to be a looming issue. In contrast, therapeutant use in aquaculture is used only to treat disease, judicious use of antibiotics in the aquaculture industry has been the norm and reducing antibiotic use remains a goal of all aquaculture producers.
Updated: August 24, 2009