Without the right labels, Australians don't know what kind of fish they are actually purchasing.

Why are fish labels so important to Australians?

Seafood plays a starring role in the diets of many Australians. Just take a look at the numbers:

  • The average Australian eats around double the amount of seafood that was consumed per person in 1975.
  • This equates to roughly 370,000 tonnes of seafood nation-wide every year.
Australians consume heaps of seafood every year.Australians consume heaps of seafood every year.

It makes sense, seafood is not just delicious, it’s a healthy source of protein and a traditional part of the diet for many of the cultures that make up Australia. But enjoying seafood in these massive quantities means two main things:

  • We’re consuming seafood from many different parts of the world, not just Australia.
  • A greater variety of fish species are appearing on our plates.

In principle, this is fine. The problem comes when the fish we buy is inadequately labelled. Australians are looking for fish that is healthy, sustainably sourced, and preferably local (or at least from somewhere trusted).

Yet, due to a lack of labelling laws across Australia many consumers unknowingly end up with fish that is unhealthy, sourced in a damaging way to the environment as well as workers, or that is simply unidentifiable.

Why do we need labels on fish?

Bottom line: Fish labels are extremely important. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of why they play such an important role.

1) Labels allow us to choose wisely

Fish labels are important because they allow consumers to make educated decisions. This ensures we can avoid the fish that are caught unethically or unsustainably or, in some cases, that may not be healthy for us.

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Destructive fishing methods, overfishing, piracy, labour abuse and a variety of other nefarious practices all play a major hand in the destruction of our oceans, their wildlife, and the communities that rely on healthy seas for food or livelihood. The prevalence of these practices varies from country to country and from fishery to fishery. When we know which fish we’re eating, where it comes from, and how it was caught or farmed we can better identify whether harmful processes are likely to have been a part of getting it from the ocean to our plate. This is especially important in Australia, considering over 70 per cent of our seafood is imported from overseas.

2) Labels keep consumers healthy

Certain fish have dangers associated with consumption. Take certain shark species, such as the dusky shark, which are known to have high levels of mercury (gummy sharks have less, and are also more sustainable). When labels fail to mention that there may be a particular shark meat in their product, consumers can’t take the necessary precautions. This presents problems for people with high levels of mercury in their diet, as well as pregnant women who need to watch their mercury intake.

3) Labels help us pick local products

While consuming the amount of seafood we do in Australia means we can’t always buy local (as many people would prefer), labels can at least help us buy seafood from places where practices are better for people and the planet. By providing accurate labels, we can empower consumers to make their own choices.

Where do we go from here?

We need to demand more from Australian labelling laws. We need to tell our federal government that we won’t settle for anything less than complete and accurate information on all of our seafood.

The shift is possible. Across the European Union there is already clear seafood labelling protocol in place. If we can implement these standards we will be able to make informed decisions and choose sustainable products that are not only good for our health but good for our oceans. Greenpeace’s Label My Fish campaign is designed to see new Australian laws requiring more complete and accurate information on seafood labels, in particular:

  • An identification of the fish species.
  • A clearly indicated label of where it comes from.
  • A description of how it was caught or farmed.

This information is critical to making more informed and ethical purchases. Let the Federal Government know you demand more from our labelling laws. To get involved, reach out to the Australian government today.

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