A new study about antibiotics in aquaculture was recently published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, and although it provides some good, useful data, it doesn’t mean much without more information.
- 5 out of 47 antibiotics were detected in shrimp, salmon, tilapia and trout.
- Oxytetracycline is the most commonly detected antibiotic compound.
- Antibiotic resistant bacteria in seafood increase >8-fold in the last 3 decades.
- We report a low risk of drug exposure from consumption of U.S. seafoods.
- We recommend vigilance toward stemming microbial risks.
Sounds pretty innocuous, but as usual, the data is already being used by third parties to suggest that antibiotic usage in seafood farming is high and a potential problem.
Let’s clarify one thing. Seafood farming and aquaculture have different meanings. Aquaculture is a far more general term, which includes farming as well as enhancement projects.
Wild salmon DO do drugs
Aquaculture is an established and growing industry in the U.S., and an increasingly important supplier of foods for U.S. consumers.
The industry also produces baitfish for sport-fishing and ornamental fish for the pet trade.
In addition, federal and state fish hatcheries raise millions of fish for stocking in U.S. waters to support commercial and recreational fisheries and species restoration efforts.
Aquaculture is an important contributor to U.S. agriculture and a cornerstone of aquatic natural resources management.
All aquaculture operations will have a demand for drugs, biologics, and other chemicals, collectively referred to as “regulated products”.
There you have it: wild salmon DO do drugs!
Unfortunately, while this new study looked at five common species, including farmed American catfish, it did not look at any aquaculture-raised American salmonids. This is a glaring oversight, considering that billions of them are raised in aquaculture facilities and released every year on the Pacific coast.
It would be very interesting to see what sort of amounts of antibiotics are used in Pacific salmonid enhancement facilities in Canada and the USA.
Antibiotic resistance predates antibiotics!
Research published in 2011 adds even more interesting context to this study.
It suggests that making judgements about antibiotic resistance in aquaculture may be difficult: DNA from 30,000 year old microbes recovered from permafrost show antibiotic resistant traits similar to their modern counterparts.