It’ll be no surprise to anyone that as a Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner you often find yourself on the opposite side of the fence to the fishing industry. From chasing dodgy longliners at sea, to confronting our biggest tuna brands, to sending the monster boat FV Margiris back to Europe, we’ve spent a lot of time eye-balling each other, the fishing industry and I, often going toe-to-toe.
But lately, instead of facing off, I’ve increasingly found myself side-by-side with the people who catch fish for a job in Australia. We’ve been just about in lock-step when it comes to better country of origin labelling for fish; shoulder-to-shoulder on accurate fish names; arm-in-arm on distinguishing wild-caught from farmed.
I admit, it’s refreshing.
It started with the formation of the Label My Fish alliance last year when we gathered key conservation groups, celebrity chef and TV presenter Matt Evans, and some progressive fishing companies and restaurants from around the country to stand up for better seafood labelling laws.
Recently we broadened the relationship by putting together a joint statement on labelling signed by an even bigger alliance of sixteen different groups from around Australia.
The statement calls for ‘country of origin’ labelling in the food service sector, so you’ll know where your flathead comes from at the pub or fish and chip shop (at the moment they don’t have to tell you anything); and it also demands accurate fish names, so you’ll be able to tell if what you’re eating is really ‘flake’, or if it’s a fake.
This week, Parliament, or at least the Senate, is due to debate a bill that would see the first step towards better labelling made into law by removing the exemption from country of origin rules that currently applies for cooked seafood. The bill was introduced by independent Senator Nick Xenaphon along with Peter Whish-Wilson from the Greens, and co-sponsored by Senators Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang, John Madigan and Jacqui Lambie.
What you can do
What we don’t know is whether the Government or Opposition support it – that’s where you come in. The bill is due to be debated on Thursday, but both parties will probably make a decision before then. We need you to call, email, or walk in to your local MP’s parliamentary office (or their local electorate office if you prefer, their staff can help you even if they won’t be there) and let them know they need to back the fish labelling bill.
If you don’t know how to contact your local member or Senator, the Australian parliamentary services make it easy – just click here and browse by name, postcode or state. A phone call or visit in person is best, by a long shot. But an email helps too.
The bill they need to support this week is called the Food Standards Amendment (Fish Labelling) Bill 2015 – it’s pretty simple, right now country of origin laws apply at the fresh fish counter or when you’re buying packaged seafood, but they don’t apply in a restaurant, pub or fish and chip shop. That’s one of the reasons why many Australians think they’re mostly eating local seafood when the truth is over 70% is imported. This bill will change that by removing the exemption for cooked seafood.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’ve ever watched parliament on TV you’ll know we can’t take anything for granted. Politicians need a lot of reminders. And you’re the best person to do it. Really. Please take a moment to reach out and tell them you want to know what’s beneath the batter – it just might make all the difference.