Strong Progress – Fish Farmer Magazine

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Scottish aquaculture has made excellent progress in almost eliminating the use of ‘critically important antibiotics’ last year, according to an independent report.

Norway, the world’s largest salmon-breeding country, can also report a similar success.

Critically important antibiotics are those classified as essential for human health, but for which excessive use in the past has put lives at risk by creating potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The World Health Organization says antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats facing humanity and to highlight this danger, it has launched a Global Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week in November.

There was a time when fish, livestock and poultry farmers were heavy users of these drugs, but not anymore.

In its annual 2021 Targets Task Force (TTF), the Responsible Use of Medicines Agriculture Alliance (RUMA), created to promote the highest standards in food safety and animal health, says Scottish salmon farmers continue to focus on the accountability of antibiotic use, balancing the need to protect the health and well-being of fish with an overall goal of reducing use.

At the root of this success is the news reported in Fish farmer Last year Scottish Sea Farms took a major step forward in its mission to reduce the use of antibiotic treatments, with zero use recorded for the company’s marine farms and hatcheries.

RUMA also reports progress in the agriculture and livestock sectors, both of which are major users of drugs.

Cat McLaughlin, President of RUMA and Chair of the Targets Working Group, said that despite an exceptional 12 months due to the pandemic, the TTF has recorded great achievements in its first year, which is testament to the hard work and engagement in all sectors.

She continues, “In addition to striving to meet or maintain key goals, a number of important industry initiatives have also been launched, including Farm Vet Champions and the Medicine Hub.

“The events of the past year have undoubtedly affected the industry in many ways, but producers, veterinarians and the industry at large have continued to manage with the utmost professionalism and commitment to the responsible use of antibiotics during this difficult time.

“It is important to remember that the goals are not aimed at zero antibiotic use; antibiotics are needed when needed as a tool to treat sick animals and to improve and maintain animal welfare. “

RUMA says all goals, including data collection and overall antibiotic management, have been met – pushed by the group of prescribing vets at the Scottish Salmon Producers Organization.

“In terms of progress indicators, the industry has established and successfully reported a new measure of the percentage of farms treated with antibiotics,” the report adds.

“This measure shows very clearly that the use is limited to a small number of farms in the production phases in freshwater and marine. The use of antibiotics on these farms was completely under veterinary care. In 2020, there was an increase in the overall use of antibiotics compared to previous years. “

However, as highlighted in previous RUMA reports, and demonstrated by the new metric documenting the percentage of farms treated, overall utilization continues to be skewed by a small number of farm treatments during the marine phase, where the most large fish require proportionately higher volumes of antibiotics to ensure safe and effective treatment.

RUMA says the three-year production cycle for salmon can make it difficult to interpret annual fluctuations, although these longer-term trends give a better idea of ​​overall industry utilization.

They also show that the use of antibiotics by the sector is low, and therefore even a marginal increase in the already low number of farms requiring the use of antibiotics in a year, especially during the marine phase of production, may lead to an increase in overall usage. The figures.

In 2020, according to the report, 6.9% of freshwater fish farms and 4.4% of marine fish farms were treated with antibiotics.

The UK salmon industry used 29.3 mg / kg, which is still well above the ultimate target of 5 mg / kg.

The RUMA TTF report also looked at the Scottish trout industry, which had a particularly difficult time last year due to the pandemic.

The lack of air freight meant that exports to important markets such as the United States became difficult.

“The result of slow sales led to increased inventory on farms, but despite this the industry has done well, with only a small increase in antibiotic use, and use is still lower. the maximum target of 20 mg / kg currently set at 13.9 mg. / kg ”, the report states.

“The British Trout Association (BTA) is working closely with the University of Aberdeen to develop a vaccine against proliferative kidney disease (PKD).

“PKD has been a major challenge for the trout industry for many years, but with improved understanding and vaccine development, it is hoped that a PKD vaccine will be possible over time. “

The report stresses that vaccines are a vitally important tool in the prevention of disease in trout farms and that increasing the use as well as improving the availability of cost-effective licensed vaccines is crucial.

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