Home' Nova National : Nova December 2014 Contents novamagazine.com.au
Christmas time to Australians
mean slow walks along the beach
and a dip in the ocean, long
summer evenings and a glass of
white with a seafood BBQ. But the choices
you make at the fish shop this holiday season
ca n mea n you’ ll be eating seafood that’s
sustainable. Or not.
Australians love seafood. We love the
oceans our sea food comes from. But while
the average Australian now eats roughly
double the amount of seafood we consumed
in 1975, the quantity of fish we can
sustainably draw from our oceans for food
just has not kept up.
To put the nearly 370,000 tonnes of
seafood we now consume every year on the
Australian table, we now eat a greater variety
of species, sourced from more locations and
produced using a growing array of methods.
In fact, 70 per cent of our seafood now
comes from oversea s.
While this has no doubt improved the
choices we have, it has also made them
Australians want to buy seafood that is
good for our health, good for our oceans,
and good for the livelihoods of the people
who provide it for us.
But some of the seafood we might buy
this Christmas may not be a healthy choice,
could damage our marine environment and
may have been produced by people working
under unfair conditions.
To add to this problem, current-labelling
requirements for seafood in Australia can
© NOVA DECEMBER 2014
leave us conf used and misguided.
A good example is “flathead”, which is
popula r in fish a nd chip shops, restaura nts
and retailed a s frozen fillets in supermarkets.
We naturally think that “flathead ” is Aussie
flathead. But when we buy “flathead ” it may
well be an imported South America n fish,
of a completely different family (Percophis
brasiliensis). The imported “flathead” is
much cheaper – up to $20 per kilo less. But
there’s often no labelling on your pub or fast
food menu, or packet of frozen “flathead ”, to
indicate you’re not buying Aussie flathead,
but a cheap imitation caught by destructive
bottom trawling in Argentinean waters.
Another fish subject to confusion is
barramundi. Australians rate barramundi
as their favourite fish in restaurants.
While about 90 per cent of us believe the
barramundi we are consuming is Australian,
over two thirds of the barramundi we eat is
actually imported from A sia.
Worryingly, some fish contain high
and potentially unsafe levels of mercury.
Too much mercury can harm pregnant
women and young children. For this reason,
government authorities recommend that
pregna nt women, breastfeeding mothers and
children under six years of age restrict the
amount they eat of certain species, including
shark (flake), catfish and orange roughy. Yet
if we’re not told which species we’re eating
we’re unable to act on these health warnings.
Good Choices for Christmas
So what is a good choice when it comes to
seafood this Christma s?
Every piece of seafood we eat differs in
Seafood is top of the list for festive food but increasingly we want to know
where it comes from and how it is caught. Alison Orme, Project Manager
Label My Fish, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, offers some tips.
terms of how sustainable it is, whether it
was produced ethically and its impact on
No fishery in the world is perfect, but
many Australian fisheries, in particular the
Commonwealth, South Australian and
Western Australian fisheries, have strong
management relative to some of the neighbours
from which we source our seafood.
Some of the better choices in
sustainability terms are dusky flathead from
NSW and Victoria, sa rdines or mullet from
South Australia or New Zeala nd, wild-
caught salmon from Alaska, jig-caught
southern cala mari a nd Gould’s squid from
Australia, whiting, a lbacore or skipjack tuna
from our Ea st Coast, Australian farmed
barramundi, farmed prawns (black tiger and
banana), oysters (Sydney rock, native and
Pacific) and crabs (mud a nd spa nner).
Species to avoid include imported
prawns, imported fresh or frozen tuna,
wild-caught barramundi from Indonesia,
school shark, orange roughy, bluefin tunas,
trawled prawns, wild-caught Queensland
barramundi and Australian blue warehou.
The Australian Marine Conservation
Society produces a Sustainable Seafood
Guide, an easy to use resource that can help
you figure out what’s good to buy if you
love seafood but want to tread lightly on
our ocea ns.
The Guide – which you can get online,
as an app or a pocket guide – features a
simple traffic light system: green-listed
species a re a ‘Better Choice’, amber-listed
species mean ‘Eat Less’ and red-listed
species means ‘Say No’.
Good questions to a sk at your supermarket,
fish shop or restaurant, before you make
your choice are:
• Is the species overfished?
• How was it caught or farmed?
• Is it a deep sea, slow growing or long
Unfortunately, most of the time when
we buy seafood we are not given the
information we need.
Australia’s labelling laws for seafood are
inadequate, especially as they apply to cafes
a nd restaurants.
This is in stark compa rison with new
laws in the EU which mean over half a
billion Europea ns now benefit from seafood
labelling laws, so they no longer eat their
sea food in the da rk.
Supporters of the Label My Fish
campaign include Australian fishers, chefs,
scientists and environmental groups.
Members are campaigning for new labelling
laws that tell us, whenever we buy seafood:
• what the species is
• where it was caught; and
• the method used to catch or farm it.
Australians deserve to be told exactly
what seafood we are buying this Christmas.
With proper, clear labelling we are likely
to eat a greater variety of fish, favour more
sustainable local catch, improve our health
a nd live in a healthier environment.
For more information on the Label My Fish
campaign visit: www.labelmyfish.com
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