As in other animal production sectors, antibiotics are used in aquaculture during both production and processing, mainly to prevent and treat bacterial diseases. Antibiotics have also been recommended and used as disinfectants in fish handling, but this practice has proved to be ineffective and is generally not approved by the fish inspection services.
Antibiotics have not always been used in a responsible manner in aquaculture. The FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Office of Epizootics (OIE) and a number of national governments have already raised the issue of irresponsible use of antibiotics in all production sectors, with particular concern for the potential risks to public health.
Many governments around the world have introduced, changed or tightened national regulations on the use of antibiotics, in agriculture and the aquaculture sector.
(Extracted from the FAO’s 2002 State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture)
According to Greenpeace, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, potentially harmful to human health, have been found in intensive shrimp farms in Vietnam and the Philippines.
Striped catfish, farmed in enormous quantities in the Mekong River and exported to over 100 countries, is commonly found in public canteens, such as school cafeterias. According to the WWF, it too can contain traces of antibiotics and other chemical substances harmful to human health.
Also common is the use of hormones to accelerate growth and chemicals to color the flesh of certain fish, such as salmon.
Even within the European Union, experts say that existing regulation is insufficient.