Seafood industry wants Australians to support origin labelling review

The Australian seafood industry has called on consumers to support the expansion of the current Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) laws to include seafood sold in foodservice  the Government begins an evaluation of legislation which came into effect two years ago.

“In the retail sector CoOL provides consumers with clear information on where their food has come from and allows consumers to make informed purchasing decisions, we want to see this origin labelling extended to seafood sold in the foodservice sector,” Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) Interim CEO Veronica Papacosta said.

“In July 2018 it became mandatory for food sold in retail to be labelled with its country of origin, and the wheels didn’t fall off. In fact, labelling improved the level of communication and trust between a retailer and their customers. However, there was no requirement placed on places like restaurants and cafes. Foodservice should have never been exempt from the original labelling requirements and we hope this loophole will finally close.

“Seventy per cent of the seafood eaten in Australia is imported, the majority of this consumption is in the foodservice sector, and many people don’t realise this. Consumers assume their iconic seafood meals are made using iconic Australia seafood, however we know this is often not the case. We know people want to support our Australian seafood producers, but people cannot buy Australian seafood if they can’t tell where it’s from.

The Australian seafood industry has appealed to the government to make origin labelling mandatory for seafood sold in foodservice, and Papacosta believes the country has the opportunity to make this happen.

More than 86,000 consumers have signed petitions asking for Australia seafood labelled in foodservice, and two Senate inquiries have called for it.

“Now, for a fourth and hopefully last time, we need as many people as possible to take this survey and express their support for the labelling to be expanded to cover seafood sold in foodservice. It’s been demonstrated that the current voluntary labelling system does not work. The change to mandatory, legislated labelling is wanted by consumers and is inevitable. We strongly urge the government to take action this time,” said Papacosta.

“In 2008, Country of Origin Labelling for seafood sold in foodservice was introduced in the Northern Territory with minimal disruption, and the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) has made an election promise to implement local labelling should they come into office in this year’s election.”

A 2018 report found demand for Aussie grown produce both domestically and internationally was on the rise, with the coronavirus pandemic further strengthening support for domestic produce.

“Australians are more interested in the provenance of their food than ever before, and demand for all Aussie-grown produce is on the rise,” Ms Papacosta said. “As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, clear labelling for Australian seafood not only allows consumers to support our domestic producers, but the entire supply chain including processors, truck drivers and regional communities more broadly.

“It is important to note that we do not want to vilify imported seafood. There is some excellent seafood coming into Australia which is already being enjoyed by consumers. We simply believe that consumers should be provided with the same level of information in a restaurant as they are at the fish counter so they can make an informed choice. Next to freshness, country of origin is the second most influential factor for consumers choosing which seafood they buy.

“What we would like to see is Australian seafood be clearly identified on foodservice menus. The level of detail should be at the discretion of the business, for example you could say Humpty Doo Barramundi, Tasmanian Salmon or simply Australian Whiting. Australian seafood is a drawcard for consumers and eateries can proudly display it as a badge of honour on their menus. Imported seafood should have no origin referred, or a small identifier following the menu description, similar to ‘gf’ for gluten-free.”

Positive outlook for Australian fish stocks

A new report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has delivered generally positive news for wild fish stocks in Australian Government managed fisheries.

Acting ABARES Executive Director, Peter Gooday, said the latest Fishery status reports 2019 revealed 70 per cent of fish stocks reviewed were not overfished and not subject to overfishing.

“The reports reflect a generally stable trend of stock status, with only five stocks changing status from last year,” Gooday said.

“A jointly managed stock, striped marlin in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery, is now classified as both overfished and subject to overfishing, and Australia is working with the other fishing nations of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to try to rectify that.

“In fisheries solely managed by the Australian Government, no stocks were classified as subject to overfishing.

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“However, a number of stocks in these fisheries remain classified as overfished and it is uncertain whether stocks will rebuild under current mortality rates. The
Australian Fisheries Management Authority continues to work with stakeholders on strategies for rebuilding these stocks.

“There is also a small proportion of stocks, in both Australian Government managed and jointly managed fisheries, that are now classified as uncertain due to outdated assessments or to changes in catch that need to be monitored.

“The reports also look at the economic performance of fisheries managed by the Australian Government, with $390 million generated in gross value of production (GVP) in 2017–18. This represents 22 per cent of the $1.79 billion GVP of Australia’s total wild capture fisheries.”

This report forms part of a suite of ABARES publications that provide a comprehensive and multidimensional account of the trends and outlook for Australian fisheries.

Substantial boost for Western Australia’s fish health capabilities

On the edge of the ocean at Watermans Bay, in Perth’s northern suburbs, a suite of new laboratories, examination and sampling rooms are now fully operational and providing vital support for Western Australia’s fast-growing aquaculture industry.

The new facilities provide fish health and research services that aim to grow WA’s aquaculture industries and support job growth.

WA fisheries minister Dave Kelly said the new aquatic animal health facilities will be vital to grow and protect a strong and sustainable aquaculture industry that will deliver jobs and opportunities along WA’s coastline.

“Just last month, we announced that Huon Aquaculture will be setting up a 2,200-hectare yellowtail kingfish farm off Geraldton and that has the potential to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs,” he said.

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“We have enviable environmental credentials that underpin finfish and shellfish projects, but we need to ensure we can diagnose, manage and overcome future fish health challenges.

“Enhancing our applied health research capacity, by investing in these Watermans Bay facilities, complements existing disease diagnostic and aquaculture services provided to industry by government,” said Kelly.

Managed by aquatic animal health scientists from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the facilities will bring together government, university partners and industry to develop new aquaculture research and development.

The facilities include a high-tech DNA laboratory and a cell culture laboratory, which will help to identify emerging pathogens and understand their distribution and dynamics as well as their potential to cause disease.

High-throughput sample processing robots will also help speed up large-scale pathogen molecular studies, and new equipment will enable rapid assessment of fish and shellfish immunity by examining individual cells from samples.

 

Native fish report card improves information on Victorian fish

Victorians will get a better insight into the health of the state’s waterways and native fish numbers following the launch of the native fish report card.

Victoria’s minister for water Lisa Neville said the report card will give the community and anglers important information about the state of Victorian fish.

“Through Water for Victoria, we’re improving information about our waterways and catchments, and better reporting back to communities,” said Neville.

By monitoring fish populations in Victoria’s 10 priority rivers, the report card will tell anglers and conservationists about the health of key Victorian fish species.

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The priority rivers are Gellibrand river, Glenelg river, Goulburn river, Gunbower, Lindsay and Mullaroo, Mitchell river, Ovens river, Thomson and Macalister, Wimmera river and Yarra river.

Fishers, citizen scientists and community members alike can access information about recreational and threatened non-recreational fish species through a web-portal that will be updated with new fish population data every year.

Over the next three years this website will provide information on the condition of native fish.

As data is strengthened throughout the years, it will help discover trends in fish populations.

Minister for agriculture Jaala Pulford said the government wants Victorians fishing more often, which is why it’s investing in the native fish report card to provide the community information on what they can expect to catch.

“We can’t wait to see the benefits of our record native fish stocking and continued investment in snags for fish reflected in future report card results,” said Pulford.

Funding for this program comes from the Victorian government’s $222 million investment into waterway and catchment health, recreational fishing licence fees and Target One Million, which is investing $46m to get more people fishing.

The program is run by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Victorian Fisheries Authority.

SafeFish gets $855,000 to help Australia’s seafood sector grow

Australian organisation SafeFish is helping the country’s seafood sector maintain and enhance market access for future industry growth.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation has just invested $855,000 into SafeFish, to help the industry.

SafeFish provides advice to help resolve technical trade impediments, especially in relation to food safety and hygiene.

The project, led by South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) member Alison Turnbull, aims to deliver robust food safety research and advice to industry and regulators and to maintain and enhance capabilities to provide that research and advice in a cost effective, efficient and timely manner.

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This collaborative approach between industry, government and researchers allows for improved efficiencies to current and emerging issues within the seafood industry.

Past project successes include the implementation of rapid test kits for marine biotoxins in the shellfish industry, practical technical reports and workshops on safely extending seafood shelf-life, technical advice during seafood incidents and factsheets on food safety hazards in seafood, research to underpin appropriate food safety standards and risk management policy and technical representation at Codex – the international food standards organisation.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation through investing in knowledge, innovation, and marketing aims to increase economic, social and environmental benefits for Australian fishing and aquaculture, and the wider community.

The corporation is a co-funded partnership between its two stakeholders, the Australian government and the fishing and aquaculture sectors.

SafeFish was developed by the SARDI with funding from the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Council in 2010.