Alliance between salmon industry and Chile's Government to reduce antibiotics

The 'Yelcho Project' is the first public-private alliance bringing together the salmon industry, SAG, and Sernapesca to accelerate the implementation of vaccines and reduce antibiotic use.
The 'Yelcho Project' -the first public-private alliance in Chile bringing together the salmon industry, SAG, and Sernapesca to reduce the use of antibiotics- has been signed within the framework of AquaSur 2024.

The 'Yelcho Project' -the first public-private alliance in Chile bringing together the salmon industry, SAG, and Sernapesca to reduce the use of antibiotics- has been signed within the framework of AquaSur 2024.

Photo: SalmonChile.

Eleven producer companies, the Salmon Council, the Salmon Technology Institute (Intesal) of SalmonChile, the Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG), and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service (Sernapesca), with the support of Aquabench, have joined together to work collaboratively in an alliance that will allow effective progress in the implementation of new solutions to prevent bacterial diseases and reduce the use of antibiotics in salmon farming industry.

Participating companies account for almost 90% of Atlantic salmon production in Chile

Despite being signed now, within the framework of AquaSur 2024, the so-called 'Yelcho Project' was born last year as a result of the commitment of all parties involved in salmon production in Chile to improve its standards, especially concerning animal welfare and the environment.

Following its creation, the first step has been to establish the strategic pillars for the project. There are six:

  1. Involvement of a public-private partnership in the context of the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) and the Chilean National Antimicrobial Resistance Plan (RAM) in the salmon production process.

  2. Significant reduction in the use of medicines, particularly antibiotics.

  3. Regulatory review and review of new immunological technologies available.

  4. Evaluate the use of boosters or immunity-prolonging products/strategies.

  5. Facilitate access to and development of technical information that will allow faster progress in obtaining new vaccines and/or immunological products. 

  6. Generate instances of continuous technical collaboration between the authorities and the private sector, creating specific working groups to address the different topics.

"This is the first public-private collaboration between our industry and the two main institutions that regulate the use of medicines, whose objective is framed within the program of the World Health Organization, the Chilean State, and the salmon industry," emphasized the director of the 'Yelcho Project' David Farcas. "We believe that this collaboration is central to achieving the objectives defined in the alliance," he added.

The participants define this alliance as a "crusade" backed by Aquachile, Australis Mar, Blumar, Camanchaca, Cermaq, Cultivos Yadran, Marine Farm, Mowi, Multi X, Salmones Austral, Ventisqueros and Aquabench. Together, they account for almost 90% of Atlantic salmon production in Chile.

An unprecedented public-private alliance

The importance this project may have on the future of the Chilean aquaculture industry can be deduced from the statements made by the heads of some of the institutions involved. "We have managed to unite the entire industry in an unprecedented public-private alliance," said Executive Director of the Salmon Council, Loreto Seguel.

"This project materializes a commitment to the continuous improvement of the standards with which we produce salmon in Chile. We are proud to sign this agreement that not only values the aquaculture industry but also validates us from the scientific point of view as companies that are permanently seeking ways to neutralize impacts and firmly project the industry," she continued. "With this signature, we ratify our commitment and conviction for a sustainable industry from an environmental, social, and economic point of view".

The National Director of Sernapesca, Soledad Tapia, expressed herself along the same lines. "The agreement we have just signed is very important because it is a public-private alliance between salmon companies, but also between SAG and Sernapesca to accelerate the implementation of vaccines and thus reduce the use of antibiotics," she said. "For us, this is very important because what we are looking for is precisely to reduce the use of antibiotics as much as possible and look for other alternatives such as vaccines that promote health and animal welfare and, with it, the environment health, which is what we all hope for, and the communities living near the farming centers also hope for."

Her counterpart at SAG, José Guajardo, also highlighted the relevance of the 'Yelcho Project' for the Agriculture and Livestock Service. "For us, it is very important to reduce the use of antimicrobials and for that, all the work that has to be done beforehand, such as the use of vaccines, is very timely. We are using it in different animals, in different species, and obviously, for salmon farming is very good," he stated.

Any development must always have fish care at the center

For his part, Esteban Ramírez, General Manager of the Salmon Technology Institute (Intesal) - which belongs to SalmonChile - recalled this was not the first time a similar initiative had been attempted in the country. There had been attempts in the past within the Chilean Salmon Industry Association but they had not been successful.

Now, the 'Yelcho Project' has seen the light of day in a group of companies that, according to Ramírez, regardless of their guilds or affiliations, are united in "the common goal of mobilizing the development of a new solution for SRS that will serve the entire sector." Salmon Rickettsial Syndrome (SRS) is an organism that causes significant economic losses in Chilean salmonid aquaculture.

"Therefore, from the first minute we have been supporting the actions of these companies and their guilds, which today allow us to sign a public-private collaboration agreement with SAG and Sernapesca, to continue working to enable the conditions that make it possible to have a new vaccine or new tools soon, which we hope will allow us to move faster in reducing the use of antibiotics, without affecting the welfare of fish, because any solution and development must always have at the center the obligation of care towards the fish we farm," concluded the head of Intesal.

The next steps for the alliance will be the definition of an agenda of work meetings of a Technical-Scientific Committee that will be integrated by a multidisciplinary team of highly renowned scientists, such as Dr. Alexis Kalergis, Health Chiefs of the producing companies, and also the technical counterparts of SAG and Sernapesca.

About 'Yelcho Project'

The 'Yelcho Project' was born in 2023, when its governance was defined and the first steps were taken with pharmaceutical companies worldwide to raise the need for salmon farming to advance in the development of vaccines to reduce the use of antibiotics. The idea is to emulate the successful experience of developing vaccines against Covid-19.

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