More detailed labelling of seafood, raw and cooked, would help you make a sustainable choice
SBS Learn
29 Sep 2014 - 2:07 PM  UPDATED 16 Oct 2015 - 2:18 PM

Q1 Labelling

The reason you can’t be sure what you are eating when you buy cooked seafood is because Australia doesn’t have any laws or regulations to ensure sellers provide information about the species on offer. Legislation in Australia requires all raw seafood sold here – packaged or unpackaged, imported or domestic – to be labelled with the country of origin. This legislation does not, however, apply to cooked seafood.

When you eat any type of cooked seafood, for example, prawns, calamari, lobster or fish, which has been prepared and cooked for your immediate consumption, the restaurateur, fishmonger or takeaway shop is under no obligation to tell you the species of fish or where it came from.

Similarly, sellers of all cooked seafood are not required to disclose details on species, how it was caught or farmed, making it hard for consumers to make conscious choices when buying cooked seafood.

Organisations such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) are working to bring about clear, informative seafood labelling in Australia.


Q2 Why is cheap seafood more available than ever before?

The oceans are struggling to keep up with our ever-increasing demand for seafood therefore there is more farmed seafood than ever before. Now that cheap imported seafood is flooding our supermarkets, restaurants and takeaway outlets, we are eating more seafood than ever before. Today, 70% of all seafood consumed in Australia is imported from overseas.

In some countries, seafood-farming techniques and practices do not measure up to Australian environmental standards. With fish stocks decreasing around the world making an informed choice is critical in helping marine food chains and ecology.


Q3 Would proper seafood labelling make a difference for me?

Labelling would help you make informed choices about the seafood you buy and eat. If more people make informed choices there would be an increased demand for sustainable seafood, which would have a positive impact on seafood production.

To make a sustainable choice there are three important facts to consider: 
• The species,
• Its country of origin, and
• How it was caught or farmed.

To protect threatened species and support global biodiversity there are environmental issues that have an impact too, such as:
• The overfishing of large fish species, such as Southern Bluefin Tuna, 
• Unsustainable fishing methods like sea-bed trawling, and
Farming practices that use fishmeal.


Q4 ACTION What can I do?

Ask questions. Each time you buy seafood – cooked or uncooked – check where it comes from first so you can make an informed choice to consume sustainable seafood. You could start asking questions about the seafood you eat at:

• Restaurants
• Takeaway food shops
• Canteens
• Seafood markets
• Fresh seafood in supermarkets
• Packaged seafood in supermarkets
• Fishmongers

To help support and maintain responsible seafood production you could choose sustainably. Check your AMCS Sustainable Seafood Guide when buying uncooked fish and check labels on tinned seafood for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) tick. Guide

Ask your friends or family if they know where the seafood they eat comes from. Have a discussion about seafood labelling and the reasons why it is so important for our health and the environment.  

Keep informed. A senate inquiry into current requirements for labelling of seafood and seafood products is due to release its report in late October 2014. Go to the Parliament of Australia website for the latest information on seafood labelling.