Naturally Well With Jo | 70% of the Seafood You’re Eating in Australia is Imported – Here’s What We Can Do
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Self sufficiency & sustainability

70% of the Seafood You’re Eating in Australia is Imported – Here’s What We Can Do

If you haven’t guessed it by now you would know how extremely passionate I am about sourcing and eating local, ethical and sustainable produce. Local fruit and vegetables, local meats and local seafood.  We can achieve eating this by knowing where to shop and by asking questions.  

Supporting our farmers at the farmers markets or buying direct from the farmer is one way to shop to be able to consume ethical and local produce.  You can also achieve this by buying into a local community supportive agriculture system (CSA local produce box), growing your own food or buying from your butcher or local fisherman who can tell you exactly what you are buying and where it is from. 

However, where I become  disappointed, angry and disheartened is when I go to buy fresh produce and there is no clear labelling on where that produce is from or even how it was grown.  I want to be able to ask the butcher, the shop keeper and the waiter at the restaurant if the food I am about to eat or buy is local.  I want to feel connected with the food I buy and with the farmer who grew it.  I feel we have a right to know. Don’t you? 

Within Australia we are starting to see changes in the labelling of fruit and vegetables.  However we still have a long way to go with meat and seafood and it wasn’t until I watched the SBS program ‘What’s the Catch’  which was presented by Matthew Evans, I stood up and took notice of what is really happening in the seafood industry here in Australia and why I feel the need to write this post to help support seafood labelling.  

According to Matthew Evans, 70% of seafood sold in Australia is imported.  And the seafood that you thought was flathead sitting on your plate in front of you at the restaurant can actually be sold as something else. It does not even need to be labelled as ‘flathead’ it can simply be called ‘fish’.  

Personally I find this ridiculous and I am not the only one.  You may have heard of Matthew Evans from Fat Pig Farm who also has a very popular SBS television show called The Gourmet Farmer.  

Matthew is currently lobbying the government to bring in new laws to legislate changes to seafood labelling so we as consumers know exactly where our seafood comes from and what species of seafood is actually on our plate. Matthew Evans has worked tirelessly with a senate committee to encourage people to look into seafood labelling.  The senate committee recommended country of origin labelling to be extended to all seafood sold in Australia. The senate commitee also recommend that fisherman  (who were excited about the potential new regulations) would be required to sort, label and record their catch accurately.  This was all for the consumer, so you and I knew where our food came from and what we were actually consuming.  

The labelling will encourage restaurants, cafe’s, takeaway shops and bistro’s to be transparent and truthful and tell us exactly what type of fish we are ordering and where in Australia that fish is from.  Matthew has spent many months fighting for the introduction of new labelling laws.  He has travelled Australia talking to and hearing stories from local fisherman about misrepresented and mislabeled products. 

He was able to get the Federal Senate to consider current labelling and asked for their help to change those labelling laws.  Unfortunately the Federal Senate did not think it important enough for consumers to know if the seafood they are eating is local, ethical and sustainable.  The Senate has decided not to implement the proposed amendments, but to keep the current uninformative labelling in place.   This is a joke right!?

How can our Senators, both from political parties, not realise the consequence of ensuring imported fish is labeled correctly before it is sold to customers?   How can they not think it is important to bring in regulations so that consumers can feel confident when dining out eating seafood or buying it from a local takeaway shop.  With 70% of fish sold in Australia imported and misleadingly labeled at point of sale,  how can this not be taken serious?

So what does this mean?  

It means that when you buy sushi, or buy takeaway fish from a fish punt or even sit in a restaurant and order seafood, you have no way of telling whether the seafood your eating has come from Australia, whether it is even local or worst still is actually what they called it is on the menu.  

Wherever I purchase my fish I want to now exactly what it is, where it was caught and when it was caught. I don’t want to read on a menu that I am eating β€˜fish’, I want to know exactly what I am putting into my mouth.

Not knowing where your food comes from is not only bad for the consumer (and potentially your health) it is also bad for the environment and for the farmers and local and responsible fishers who do the right thing.  

How can you help?

Buy local and sustainable seafood. Question your fishmonger. Where was the fish caught and is the fish as claimed i.e. Is it Pink Ling or Blue Eye.  Never ever buy imported prawns.  Watch ‘What’s the catch’ to find out why.   

Definition of local and sustainable seafood: 

Local and sustainable seafood is fish or shellfish which reaches our dinner plates with minimal impact upon fish populations or the wider marine environment.  
It is with the understanding that the way fish are caught, the impact on the seafloor and other marine wildlife is done in a healthy and natural way to help protect the marine eco-systems.  

How do you achieve this?

1.  Buy from local and responsible fishers.  Head here to download the sustainable fishing guide app
2.  If you fish, only take what you need and fish responsibly. Over fishing is not the answer.  
3.  Ask for wild caught or line caught fish at the checkout.  Ask if it is local and whether it is a deep sea and slow growing or long-lived species.   Don’t be shy in asking the questions.  If you cannot receive an answer that you’re happy with walk away.  
4.  Try to avoid buying any species of fish known to be in ecological crisis – see list below
5.  Try to avoid any species of fish caught using methods which harm the marine environment – see list below
6.  Eat more shellfish 
7.  Look hard for food labelling signs on tinned fish at your local supermarket which can give you genuine commitment in the way the fish has been caught and or farmed.  
8.  The most destructive fishing technique is trawling and dredging.  Both of these methods drag heavy gear along the bottom of the sea, which disturbs and destroys the seabed.  Over fishing is also a burden on ocean inhabitants.  So by you and I asking for line, wild caught and local fish we can help to keep fish levels stocks relatively high without jeopardising the ecosystem in which they live.

We can vote with our dollar at the checkout and with the list of good fish, bad fish below we are empowered to make better buying decisions.  This is how we can make a difference.  

WHAT TO EAT AND WHAT TO AVOID:  

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HOW CAN YOU HELP CHANGE THE SEAFOOD LABELLING LAWS SO WE AS CONSUMERS KNOW WHAT WE’RE EATING

You can help in a big way by heading over to sign this petition.  Australia deserves accurate seafood labelling and this petition is petitioning the Australian Senate to change the rules so we as consumers can feel confident in knowing what we’re buying and eating.  Sign here 

Download the sustainable fishing guide here:

And more information for you on how to buy and eat ethical and sustainable seafood

AND LASTLY – ENTER MY COMPETITION

To thank you for taking a stand and supporting the petition, and Matthew, and deciding to take positive steps in changing the way you eat, live and think; I would like to give one lucky person the chance to win ‘The gourmet Farmer, Goes Fishing’ cookbook which has been kindly donated by Matthew and Sadie from Fat Pig Farm.  

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All you need to do to enter is this:  Tell me why you signed the petition.  COMMENT BELOW

Winners will be announced on Friday 28th August here on the blog.  Good luck

And now with all this information, you can fish and eat fish ethically and sustainably.  

If you liked this blog post I hope that you will support Primal Living and the positive messages that we spread by sharing this post.  Thank you.  

 

References: 

http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/
https://www.sustainabletable.org.au/Portals/0/Switch%20the%20fish_guide_cutkeep-page1.pdf
http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/data/MiniGuide_30_May_2014_web.pdf

43 Comments
  • Yvonne Colley

    Aug 24, 2015 at 7:27 am Reply

    I think we all have the right to clearly understand where the food on our plate comes from, and seafood is no exception. Happily signed the petition.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 24, 2015 at 8:46 am Reply

      Thanks Yvonee for your support and your entry into the cookbook giveaway.

  • Jen Hite

    Aug 24, 2015 at 8:30 am Reply

    I’m Tasmanian! Petition signed.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 24, 2015 at 8:47 am Reply

      Thanks so much for your support Jen. You’re also entered into the competition. Good luck.

  • Julie Claessens

    Aug 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm Reply

    I want generations to come to have the choice to eat fish grown and caught ethically in clean, fresh waters, free from additives and above all locally grown and labelled.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 25, 2015 at 9:39 am Reply

      Beuatiful message Julie. Me too. Thank you for commenting, voting and entering the competition.

  • Ulrike Schuermann

    Aug 25, 2015 at 9:06 am Reply

    Hi Jo, a great article, very comprehensive. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. 70% is a very high proportion and given it has been on the agenda before and fish shops need to display where the fish comes from they are selling, it is a shame that this policy has not been consistently applied. We don’t only have to be on the watch about imported versus local fish, we also have to eat what we buy and not waste so much food. That would go such a long way! i signed up to your newsletter before problogger and thought we might meet there – but it was such a large audience! Great conference, I also like your other post! Kind regards Ulrike

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 25, 2015 at 9:37 am Reply

      Thanks for your vote Ulrike. I was also stunned at the %. 70% is extremely high.

  • Lauren

    Aug 25, 2015 at 9:18 am Reply

    Dad catches my fish for me. He’ll be sad if we run out (and so will I).

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 25, 2015 at 9:38 am Reply

      I need your dad here Lauren πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading and for your vote and entry into the cookbook prize.

  • Miranda Moffatt

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:12 am Reply

    I want abundant supplies for future generations to enjoy.

  • Sonia Coad

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:26 am Reply

    My family have always fished sustainably, as in we catch only what we know we will eat in a month (which is very little). We ensure that we only catch fish that we know there are plenty of; ie flathead. Now that we aren’t catching as many fish as we used to because of overfishing we are relaying on buying it from supermarkets and small business fish mungers. The last time we bought fish from Woolworths the worker told us that she didn’t know where the fish had come from or if it was even Australian, but in Coles they knew where the fish was from and if it was fresh or frozen, sustainable or not. I think it would be alot easier for those who wish to buy sustainable fish but weren’t raised fishing. We need to fish for the future and the trawlers need to go or at least reduce their numbers and fish suitably to ensure there are plenty of fish for the future generations.

    I signed the petition because I agree 100% with what Matthew Evans and his team are trying to achieve and I feel that the government could be doing alot more to conserve the future that they are meant to be providing for. The local mayor of the Huon knows all to well about fishing to preserve for the future. But I think the State government and the Australian government could and should be doing alot more to protect and conserve the fish for the future, they can start by reducing the fish farms which are killing the sea bed, if not reduce then look at the food they feed to their fish, make it safer for nature.

  • Miranda Moffatt

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:27 am Reply

    I believe we need to know where our food is sourced, for the benefit of future generations.

  • Miranda Moffatt

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:28 am Reply

    For future generations. Happily signed petition

  • Sonia Coad

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:29 am Reply

    My family have always fished sustainably, as in we catch only what we know we will eat in a month (which is very little). We ensure that we only catch fish that we know there are plenty of; ie flathead. Now that we aren’t catching as many fish as we used to because of overfishing we are relaying on buying it from supermarkets and small business fish mungers. The last time we bought fish from Woolworths the worker told us that she didn’t know where the fish had come from or if it was even Australian, but in Coles they knew where the fish was from and if it was fresh or frozen, sustainable or not. I think it would be alot easier for those who wish to buy sustainable fish but weren’t raised fishing. We need to fish for the future and the trawlers need to go or at least reduce their numbers and fish suitably to ensure there are plenty of fish for the future generations.

  • Nichole McKee

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:36 am Reply

    As the wife of a commercial fisherman I found it very fitting to support all fellow Australian Fisher’s. It is so important for consumers to know exactly where their seafood is coming from, and the more highlight we can get for our Aussies to eat from our waters the better. We have a beautiful sustainable fishing ground, why eat seafood from elsewhere…It’s all right here, and so good for us all. πŸ˜€

  • Helen Clark

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:44 am Reply

    Petition signed and shared. It is essential we not only know what we are eating but also where our seafood comes from. Information about our food choices arms us with the knowledge to make healthy and sustainable decisions about what we feed our families.

  • Kellie

    Aug 27, 2015 at 9:46 am Reply

    Hi there,,

    We definitely need to know where our seafood is coming from! My husband has been a commercial fisherman for many years. He is all for sustainability of his industry, of our oceans and fisheries. Its very frustrating to see large retailers ‘flogging’ imported fish to unsuspecting buyers here in Australia when we have the best seafood in the world on offer. Let’s support our own commercial fisherman of whom the majority are doing the right thing!

  • Marion Crowther

    Aug 27, 2015 at 10:10 am Reply

    It is so important to know where your food comes from, who grew/made it, how it was grown. This is knowledge. And conscious eating is vital for sustainability – both of our world and our health. Why do we import poor quality food and export high quality food – what a ridiculous waste of fuel. Why don’t we eat what we produce here first? Frustrating.

  • Kerry Flynn

    Aug 27, 2015 at 10:11 am Reply

    We are so lucky to be able to access beautiful produce in Australia. Let’s protect what we have and allow the public to make informed choices.

  • Katherine

    Aug 27, 2015 at 10:37 am Reply

    I only buy Australian seafood, therefore labelling is a must; and this should be no different in restaurants. Over fishing practices, super trawlers, pollution etc, we need to make informed decisions to avoid these otherwise we are supporting them. Petition signed, well done for raising this.

  • Maureen Dempsey

    Aug 27, 2015 at 11:06 am Reply

    I signed the petition as I want to know where my fish comes from – why should it be a secret? – I love eating local seafood that my husband lovingly catches for me as I know it’s origins and it’s environment.

  • Karen Clarke

    Aug 27, 2015 at 11:34 am Reply

    Cooked seafood labelling would be an extension of the information that you would get when purchasing the raw product. It makes no sense for the information to hit a dead end just because it gets cooked. I’m sure pollies would not be too happy to attend their fancy restaurants only to be faced with a menu listing “meat” as the plat du jour, but apparently its ok with fish. Its likely to be an issue of “its too hard” rather than anything else, which is a real shame. I’d like to be able to make informed decisions when I eat out, so why should the flames that cook my fish also cook the information that the same fish came into the kitchen with? I’d also like to educate my children on the impact of eating the seafood on their plate – but how can I when I don’t know where it came from?

  • Tammie

    Aug 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm Reply

    Great article
    I am lucky enough to call myself a Tasmanian, I was raised on local seafood.
    From a very young age I knew the taste of scallops, crayfish, oysters and flounder, I knew the session it was available and where it came from.
    I have fond memories of my dad sitting on the steps at the back door with a large hessian bag shelling scallops. My job was to stand still with a colander, when full running the scallops into mum so she could bag and freeze. I believe it’s everyone’s right to know what they are eating and where it comes from. I support the fight Matt Evans is taking up with labeling I too want to see labeling that reflects where it came from and how it was produced and on sustainability. Keep up the fight with Canberra Matt I was shocked to see the massive flaw in the legislation surrounding labeling of seafood cooked or not!! Empower the consumers and whatch what happens!

  • Tammie

    Aug 27, 2015 at 2:18 pm Reply

    Great article Jo!
    I am lucky enough to be a Tasmanian, raised on fresh local seafood.
    Knowing the taste of local flounder, crayfish, scallops, and oysters (the list goes on) 
    I have fond memories of my dad sitting on the back door steps shelling a large hessian potato sack full of scallops. My job was to stand still with the colander, when full, I would run the scallops inside to mum, so she could bag and freeze them.
    I believe everyone has a right to know what they are eating and the origin of that food and the impact it has on the environment – Sustainability on all seafood is a must.
    I fully support Matt Evans and his battle to get labeling on cooked and uncooked seafood.
    I say keep up with the campaigns to the politicians, legislation must change
    Empower the consumer and what happens.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:20 am Reply

      Thanks Tammie. Together we can help make a difference.

  • Rebecca Harding

    Aug 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm Reply

    I signed the petition as I believe we all have a right, particularly as parents, to know what we are eating, and what we are feeding our children. Progress is clear labelling. Not labelling is irresponsible.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:20 am Reply

      Exactly Rebecca. Thank you

  • Donna Bailey

    Aug 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm Reply

    I grew up in China and have witness the fish farmers dump antibiotics into the water to make sure high production. Yes, if you are going to eat fish, you really need to know in which country the fish were farmed/processed.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:19 am Reply

      Hi Donna. Oh no, you have seen some of the worse things. Thanks for your support

  • Krys trotter

    Aug 27, 2015 at 3:37 pm Reply

    Hi signed your petition because I’m sick of buying fish that’s not Australian when they say it is and good job Matt

  • Jessica Hill

    Aug 27, 2015 at 5:36 pm Reply

    I signed because I believe we have a right to know absolutely everything about whatever we put into our bodies. I grew up on a farm, and my father is a very very keen fisherman. He took us fishing from the youngest ages and not only did the fish taste better, but you felt better knowing the only thing that was harmed was the fish on your plate, you could go back next week and catch another. I am passionate about growing and farming my own food, it’s the way I grew up. Like most people though, I’m not at the point in my life where I can make that a possibility for every single thing I eat, specifically seafood. This is why I believe that seafood accurate labeling is a must. The very fact that they can actively mislabel fish and pass it off as another species is enough in itself to make me sign the petition. The right to be able to know the sustainability of what your eating should be the top of everyone’s list and that’s why I signed the petitions.

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:19 am Reply

      Thank you so much Jessica for your support and your awesome comment.

  • Tahlia Watts

    Aug 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm Reply

    Because I currently will not eat seafood that I do not know the origin of, which means I am potentially missing opportunities to support businesses that are trying to do the right thing and really need our support!!

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:18 am Reply

      Awesome Tahlia. Thank you for your support.

  • Tania

    Aug 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm Reply

    Thanks Matthew for taking on the fight .. It really shouldn’t have to be a fight .. It should be a right .

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:18 am Reply

      Thanks Tania for your support.

  • Deborah

    Aug 28, 2015 at 7:51 am Reply

    Signed the petition on the first few days. I want to have the choice of what I eat and I certainly don’t want to be eating unsustainable seafood and contribute to the destruction of a species. If I don’t know, I won’t eat it and why should I have to exclude a food group just because it isn’t labelled?

    • Jo Smith

      Aug 28, 2015 at 10:17 am Reply

      Thanks so much Deborah for signing the petition. Good luck for the prize.

  • Wendy

    Aug 28, 2015 at 4:43 pm Reply

    It’s great that we may soon have some truth at fish & chip shops and sellers of fish, even though the shopkeepers haven’t always been at fault. We need more people to be aware of where their food comes from and how it ends up as their food too. Good luck in your continued endeavours πŸ˜€

  • Wendy

    Aug 28, 2015 at 4:46 pm Reply

    Keep up the good work guys, I truly appreciate what you are doing for all of us and our offspring. Thankyou πŸ™‚

  • Carol Gillham

    Aug 30, 2015 at 1:32 am Reply

    I signed the partition because I like fish simply because of their existence, I think they are beautiful things. Because they are a food source for people they need to be treated respectfully and ethically and sustainably fished and if they are not I want to have the choice at the sales counter of not supporting those particular methods and trusting that the species I buy is what the label says it is.

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