Seafood labelling – why are we whiting?

Matthew Evans

Over time I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way Australians can make informed choices about what we’re eating is if we’re given sufficient information, if we’re told exactly what’s on the plate.

From my work as a restaurant critic, consumer advocate and in recent research for the SBS TV series, What’s the Catch? , which looks at the truth behind Australia’s seafood, I know this just isn’t happening when it comes to seafood.

This is particularly the case with cooked seafood served up in cafes and restaurants.

Imagine a menu that offered ‘mammal and root vegetable’, or ‘bird and green leaf’.

It would be considered ridiculous.

But when it comes to seafood, you can simply write ‘fish’ on a menu in Australia, without much of a problem. So long as it is fish (and not mammal, or bird), then it’s okay, under current legislation, to not say exactly which fish it is.

It’s time for reform.

We need to stop allowing seafood to be described in obscure, obfuscating, or misleading terms and provide consumers with what they deserve – clear and accurate seafood labelling. What we really need, is to know just what’s on our plates. Only then can we make decisions about what we put in our mouths, and what our actions may have on the seas that provide for our tables.

While we’re waiting, here’s a simple dish to cook at home with sustainable Sand or King George whiting.

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© Alan Benson

Grilled Lemon Whiting with Crushed Peas

(Serves 4)

A quick dish that shouldn’t tax the cook. Start the peas first, as the fish should take less than a minute to cook on each side.

300g peas (frozen is just fine)
40g butter
salt and freshly milled pepper
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
4 large sand or King George whiting fillets
flour for dusting (optional)
butter for frying
fresh lemon for squeezing

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Simmer peas until tender and mash gently with the butter, some salt, pepper and the lemon zest. Season the whiting, flour lightly, and fry in hot butter until just changed colour inside. Lay fish over the peas, reheat the whiting pan (add a little more butter if dry) until the butter goes a nut-brown colour. Squeeze in some lemon and tip this over the fish and peas.

Take action to protect our oceans! Tell the Federal Government: I want to know what seafood I am eating – and demand accurate labelling now.