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.”

Insights into agricultural trade during COVID-19

Australia’s agricultural trade has held relatively steady during the COVID-19 pandemic, however the export of some commodities such as seafood, have seen a downturn.

In the early stages of COVID-19, there were significant concerns for Australian agricultural trade and the impacts we may see. Over the past few months however, agricultural trade has thankfully held relatively steady.

Head of Agricultural Forecasting and Trade for ABARES, Dr Jared Greenville, noted that official trade data shows that between January and March 2020, most agricultural exports continued to leave Australia and reach consumers in international markets.

“Where exports are down on long-term average figures, this is mostly due to the effect of the recent drought on domestic production levels.

“But there were exceptions, and significant disruptions did occur, particularly for sectors closely linked with food services, and those reliant on air freight to get their produce out of the country,” said Greenville.

“Seafood is a key example of this, and we saw exports in this space fall sharply in February 2020. This was due to the timing of the spreading pandemic with peak seafood export periods, and a more significant reliance on air freight (approximately 76 per cent of seafood export value).

“While there was some recovery in March, our seafood exports remain well down on long term average results.”

Domestic production relies on continued access to imported goods like chemicals, fertilisers, agricultural machinery and veterinary medicines.

“The trade data shows that these goods have continued to arrive, despite the pandemic. Most of these products arrive by sea, which has been much less impacted than transport by air,” said Greenville.

The global economic outlook is a significant concern going forward, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting a 3 per cent contraction in global economic activity in 2020—an outcome that is worse than we experienced during the global financial crisis in 2007/08 (IMF, 2020).

‘Because agricultural exports mostly relate to food, the impact will most likely be felt through softer prices, rather than significantly reduced consumption. This is what we saw during the global financial crisis, when agricultural trade remained steady despite the economic turmoil that followed.

‘Not all products from the sector are essential though. As economic activity declines and global incomes are reduced, products consumed through more discretionary spending are likely to be affected, such as high quality food for cafés and restaurants.

‘For products which feed exclusively into manufacturing supply chains such as cotton, wool and wood products, demand may be affected by manufacturing closures, disruption to construction, and the effect of falling incomes on the purchase of new clothes and other durable goods.’

Depending on the course of the pandemic, economic activity is expected to begin normalising in 2021.

For agriculture, the pandemic has highlighted the risk of concentrated supply chains for certain goods and services. A diversified supply chain, which includes domestic and multiple international options for imported inputs and export markets, allows for risk mitigation and continuity of supply in almost all situations.

Visit the COVID-19 Hub on our website for more detailed insights into the impacts of the pandemic on our industry.

See our article on how the Australian Government’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism is helping to get Aussie exports off the ground during COVID-19.

$4 million helping hand announced as fishers reel from COVID impact

“Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, Assistant Minister for Fisheries Senator Jonno Duniam and Queensland Liberal Senator Paul Scarr have announced $4 million in funding toward a national marketing campaign to promote Australian seafood to the nation,” SIA Interim CEO Veronica Papacosta said.

This campaign is designed to support the industry’s recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

This funding will allow the Australian seafood industry to deliver a 12-month national awareness program designed to provide a much needed boost to the Australia seafood industry, and the supply chain that supports it including retailers and foodservice, as the industry recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.

“Australian seafood is iconic, but it is not yet a brand. This campaign represents the industry’s move to establish Australian Seafood as a brand in its own right, and we couldn’t be any more excited to promote Australian seafood, to Australian consumers.

“A national approach to marketing has been a long time coming, and it will be our job to ensure a united approach remains a focus for industry moving forward.

“Australian seafood is the best in the world, our commercial fisheries are global leaders in sustainability and it’s time we celebrated an undisputed national icon.

“Post-COVID-19 we’re noticing a change in Australian consumers and they’re prioritising Australian produce. This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to position our clean and sustainable Australian seafood to domestic consumers, as they adjust their purchasing behaviours and prioritise the importance of Australian origin.

“The need for trust and confidence in our food sources, supply-chains and long-term resource sustainability is more necessary than ever before,” said Papacosta.

Seafood industry buoyed by Federal support

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s $110 million International Freight Assistance announcement.

“We’d like to thank the Federal Government for helping to keep Aussie jobs and Aussie seafood on the table,” SIA CEO Jane Lovell said. “The Australian seafood industry has been in turmoil since orders to China evaporated on 24 January. We asked the Federal Government for financial support and coordination assistance to reopen export markets; today we can tick that box.

“Seafood Industry Australia was created for moments like this. As the voice of the Australian seafood industry we asked our members what their needs were, how we could keep the industry afloat, and we took that message to Governments right around the country.”

The assistance will help the Australian seafood industry restart exports to global markets, including China. This means not only securing Australian businesses and jobs in the seafood industry, but further downstream in processing, freight and beyond, according to Lovell.

“For the Aussie seafood businesses who have effectively been without an income for nine weeks, for their employees, and for their families this marks the beginning of a return to normal. There’s no better stimulus than getting back to work. We have orders waiting, and we now have a way to confidently go fishing to fill those orders,” she said.

“We asked for government fees and charges to be waived, and the Federal Government heard that request and has waived fisheries management levies under the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, saving our industry more than $10 million this year. This waiver is welcome news for our struggling industry and will provide a slight reprieve to many.

“We look forward to welcoming more good news over the coming weeks as other states assist industry by waiving their fees and charges. We understand there are many challenges for Governments across the country right now, but as an essential service, who provide more than one billion meals to families here and overseas, it is critical that we’re able to keep working.

“We have worked closely with the Federal Government, and particularly Assistant Minister Jonathon Duniam and his office. We thank John and Danielle for responding to our calls for help – and we look forward to continuing to work with them to deliver on challenges we continue to face. We’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of Seafood Trade Advisory Group’s (STAG) Nathan Maxwell and Jayne Gallagher.”

Winners of Sustainable Seafood Awards announced

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has today announced the winners of its fourth annual Sustainable Seafood Awards, which recognise pioneering organisations and individuals helping to end overfishing and ensure plentiful seafood supplies for future generations.

Ten awards and five commendations were given by the prestigious judging panel, which included leaders from the fishing and sustainability sectors, while the People’s Choice Award was decided by a national public vote.

Coles was named Best Sustainable Seafood Supermarket for the fourth consecutive year, thanks to its wide offering of MSC certified products with the blue fish tick across its fresh, chilled, frozen and tinned seafood. Additionally, the supermarket chain took home Best Sustainable Seafood Public Engagement and was Highly Commended in the Best Sustainable Seafood Product category for its MSC certified Aussie Banana Prawn Skewers – Garlic & Chilli.

“We know our customers love seafood and we are delighted to be able to offer a wide range of fresh, delicious seafood while giving them the confidence that it’s been responsibly sourced. We are proud to be recognised by the MSC for the fourth year running for our commitments and achievements to responsibly sourced seafood,” said Brad Cook, Coles General Manager Own Brand, Quality and Responsible Sourcing.

“We’re also excited to see our MSC certified garlic and chilli banana prawns receive a Highly Commended award in the product category, as this was a direct result of us listening to our customers and responding to demand over the busy summer entertaining period”, added Cook.

ALDI was also recognised for the first time in the national awards, taking home Best Sustainable Seafood Mid-Size Retailer, as well as being Highly Commended for its MSC certified Ocean Rise Smoked European Sprats in the Best Sustainable Seafood Product category.

Kate Doctor,  buying director of Seafood at ALDI Australia, commented, “We show our devotion to the ocean through sustainable sourcing and transparency, ultimately helping customers support responsible fishing and farming practices.

“We are thrilled to be the Australian retailer with the largest range of MSC certified own-label fish and seafood, and to be recognised for our shared commitment to end overfishing.”

Other big winners included Taronga Zoo and Austral Fisheries. Taronga Zoo took home Best Sustainable Seafood Venue for featuring MSC certified seafood in all its restaurants and cafés, alongside Best Sustainable Seafood Public Engagement for its Seal Show, which educates over a million visitors annually on the importance of choosing MSC-certified sustainable seafood.

Austral Fisheries was awarded Best Sustainable Seafood Product for its carbon-neutral fish, Glacier 51, which is served up at top restaurants across Australia like Nobu, Sake and Rockpool, while its CEO, David Carter, was given the Lifetime Achievement award.

New for 2020, the MSC introduced its People’s Choice Award, giving the general public the chance to vote for their favourite of seven household name brands – from seafood specialists to retailers. Woolworths was crowned winner, with 30% of the vote.

Anne Gabriel, MSC Oceania Program Director, noted, “These awards not only influence what seafood lovers see in stores and on menus, but give well-deserved credit to the people who work tirelessly to ensure seafood supplies for years to come.

“While we’ve certainly begun making waves in reversing the cycle of decline in ocean health, there is so much more that needs to be done.

“Our vision is of the world’s oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. With the help of organisations and individuals like our Sustainable Seafood Award winners, and through the use of the MSC blue fish tick label on all certified products, we are transforming the seafood market to a sustainable one, in turn helping to create a future full of fish for all.”

MSC Sustainable Seafood Awards 2020 Winners

  1. Best Sustainable Seafood Supermarket: Coles
  2. Best Sustainable Seafood Venue: Taronga Zoo
  3. Best Sustainable Seafood Mid-Size Retailer: ALDI Australia
  4. Best Sustainable Seafood Distributor: Bidfood
  5. Lifetime Achievement: David Carter, Austral Fisheries
  6. Best Sustainable Seafood Local Retailer: The Fish Shoppe, Melbourne
  7. Rising Star: Robert Morales, Executive Chef, CHEFIN
  8. Best Sustainable Seafood Public Engagement: The Seal Show at Taronga Zoo and Coles
  9. People’s Choice Award: Woolworths
  10. Best Sustainable Seafood Product: Glacier 51 Toothfish

Highly Commended Sustainable Seafood Products:

  • ALDI Ocean Rise Smoked European Sprats
  • Coles Aussie Banana Prawns – Garlic & Chilli
  • Skull Island Tiger Prawns
  • Paspaley Pearl Meat
  • John West Alaskan Salmon rang

Seafood industry urges lovers to buy Aussie

Australia’s seafood industry is urging consumers to “Say it with seafood” this Valentine’s Day in a bid to give the industry a much needed boost as it grapples with the flow on effect of the summer’s extreme weather and coronavirus.

“This Valentine’s Day we are urging Aussies to ‘Say it with seafood’,” Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) CEO Jane Lovell said.

“It’ll come as no surprise that our many in our industry have been doing it rough lately. From drought to catastrophic fires and flooding rain; coupled with export and now domestic market disruption due to the cancellation of sales into China, we need Aussies to share the love this Valentine’s Day and ‘Say it with seafood’.

“Are you tired of the usual Valentine’s Day gifts? Don’t flounder for something out of the box when Aussie seafood is right under your nose. A dozen oysters or a posy of pippies would make the perfect present, and who wouldn’t want a leatherjacket?

“Oysters are always associated with Cupid’s big day, but why not dust off the fry pan, get in the kitchen and cook your Valentine an entire seafood platter?

“We all know seafood is touted as an aphrodisiac, and scientifically it’s true.

A recent study has shown couples are 39 per cent more likely to be intimate on days when they have both eaten seafood. And, those who ate at least two portions a week romped an average of eight times per month, compared to six times for those who ate less.

Seafood is  high in protein, and researchers say protein-rich seafood like tuna, sardines and salmon can improve your stamina.

“Aussie seafood is one of the cleanest and greenest protein sources in the world. So whether you’re picking a restaurant, cooking crab to serve at sunset, or making a last-minute dash to the shops for a gift to celebrate the international day of love, make sure you ‘Say it with seafood’,” said Lovell.

Call to stick to sustainable seafood over Easter

With a potential shortage of fresh seafood stocks due to wild seas over the Easter period, The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is encouraging Aussie consumers to commit to choosing sustainably sourced seafood when shopping or eating at restaurants.

Easter is the second highest consumption period for seafood after Christmas, with approximately 400 tonnes sold in Australia each year. It is a critical time of year for Australian fisheries and aquaculture, that now accounts for just over $3 billion towards Australia’s GDP and employs more than 13,000 Australians.

MSC Oceania Program Director, Anne Gabriel, says that with the demand for seafood continuing to increase, it is important for large businesses to source sustainably to ensure the longevity of fish stocks in future. Organisations such as Coles, IKEA and John West Simplot Australia are leading the way in opting for sustainable seafood.

“The combination of population growth and increasing demand for fish in many areas of the world is spiking a rise in seafood consumption, but we can decrease impact on oceans and marine life while maintaining healthy fish populations for generations to come through international, science based third party certification programs, such as the MSC,” said Ms Gabriel.

Australia has been globally acknowledged for its management of fisheries, world class in innovation and foresight with over 27 of its fisheries as being MSC certified covering a total of 22 of species.

“It is imperative to be mindful of the socioeconomic importance of fisheries to nations and communities both as a source of income in sustaining livelihoods and to secure continuous provision of seafood to eradicate poverty and ensure food security, respectively,” continued Ms Gabriel.

Australia also has the third largest marine jurisdiction in the world containing vital natural and biological resources, making the role of consumers instrumental in the positive uptake of sustainable seafood.

“One such commendable initiative is by Coles who has released the company’s very first television commercial promoting their delicious and wide array of sustainable seafood through the blue MSC label of trust in their wet fish counters,” said Ms Gabriel.

“The momentum comes after Coles was awarded the MSC Wave of Change Award for their tangible commitment as the first supermarket in the country to undertake chain of custody certification for their 700 deli seafood counters.”

Heidi Walker, co-owner Walker Seafoods, the only MSC certified tuna fishery in Australia, says, “As Australian fishers, our goal is to ensure the long-term viability of our fishery, we work closely with AFMA as well as CSIRO and Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) scientists. Our vessels and operators have been credited for assisting tagging studies for both Tuna and Swordfish and we pride ourselves on being the first choice by CSIRO for all scientific studies and projects.”

In its recently held Sustainable Seafood Week (March 12 – 18) in Australia, MSC exposed consumers to their own important role in making the right choices through promotional and educational events about the impact of overfishing on native wildlife, run by leading brands and organizations such as Taronga Zoo.

Ms Gabriel says Australia has been a trailblazer in fisheries certification with the world’s first certified fishery being the Western Rock Lobster in Western Australia, which contributes more than half a billion dollars to the state economy while generating more than 2,400 employment opportunities in the state.

“We aspire to work closely with leading market players across supermarkets, brands, restaurants, food service operators, suppliers, the health sector, hospitality industry, and shipping and airlines industry to get them to fulfil their respective sustainable seafood sourcing goals.”

 

Australia’s first Sustainable Seafood Week launched

International non-profit organisation, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), this week launched Australia’s first ever Sustainable Seafood Week (March 12 – 18), supported by several big name brands such as IKEA, Coles and John West, to encourage Australians to opt for sustainably caught seafood for their meals.  

The week has been created by MSC to encourage Australian consumers and businesses to support keeping oceans ‘Forever Wild’ and teeming with life, while also ensuring future seafood supplies for generations to come.  

MSC has set the standard for fisheries across the globe with the world’s most recognised certification program for sustainable, wild caught seafood – the blue fish tick of approval. By sourcing seafood products that bear the MSC blue fish tick of approval, companies small and large can help keep our oceans teeming with life for future generations.

IKEA Australia Food Manager Ivana Frost said we are committed to offering delicious, healthy food at affordable prices for everyone, as well as providing food that is sustainably produced, with good animal welfare practices. 

“We are one of very few major retailers who sell seafood that is certified by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). 

That means the seafood we sell in IKEA restaurants and through our Swedish Food Markets is 100% sustainably sourced, and sold to 600 million food customers globally,” said Ms Frost.

MSC’s Oceania Program Director, Anne Gabriel, said the ability to choose certified sustainable seafood in Australia has never been easier.  

“Around 75% of the population believe we should only be consuming sustainably sourced seafood, however, many Australians are unaware of how to identify these products,” said Mrs Gabriel.

“With the MSC blue fish tick, consumers, caterers, cafes and retailers can easily identify sustainably sourced products for purchase, empowering them to make the right decision to keep our marine life, forever wild.

Celebrity chef and MSC Ambassador, Scott Gooding, says Sustainable Seafood Week is a great way to encourage both consumers and those within the hospitality and food industry to incorporate sustainable seafood products into their everyday meals. 

“As a chef, I’m passionate about not only what’s served on a plate, but also how it got there. Food traceability is very important and to me, living healthily and eating well starts with knowing where our food comes from,” said Scott.  

“Sustainable Seafood Week is the perfect way to showcase to those within the food industry how to prepare delicious seafood dishes using sustainably sourced seafood, all of which can be easily replicated in the kitchen.” 

Around one billion people depend on seafood as a primary source of protein, mostly in the developing world. Australians are lucky to have a variety of certified sustainable seafood to choose from to do its part to keep oceans healthy and ensure seafood supplies remain strong for generations to come.

Online tool aims to make sourcing sustainable seafood easier

Businesses that trade in wild caught seafood can now access an online tool to help them determine the stock, environmental and management risks associated with the seafood they buy and sell.

Whichfish.com.au is a new website launched by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) specifically to assist seafood buyers make better informed decisions.

“Whichfish will make it easier for businesses to determine which seafood to source by providing them an independent assessment of the risks associated with wild caught Australian seafood,” says FRDC’s Managing Director Patrick Hone.

Each assessment includes an outlook section to indicate whether risks are likely to lessen, remain stable or worsen. Risk assessment reports are available online or the entire list can be downloaded at the site for future reference.

Whichfish.com.au currently features the first twenty-six Australian species including Saddletail Snapper, Eastern King Prawn, Balmain bugs and Deepwater Flathead; with more species due to be added throughout the year.

“Coles recognises well-managed and responsible fishing is essential for future sustainability of our marine ecosystems which is why since 2015 all our Coles Brand Fresh, Frozen, Thawed and Canned Seafood has been responsibly sourced. We are delighted with the FRDC initiative which will help continue the sustainability journey in our industry,” said James Whittaker – Head of Quality and Responsible Sourcing, Coles.

Whichfish uses elements from the GSSI Benchmarked Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Standard version 2.0, but is neither a duplicate of it nor a substitute for it. The site does show seafood products (from fisheries) that have been third party certified by a scheme benchmarked to the Global Seafood Sustainable Initiative Criteria.

The FRDC are working to add more species throughout the year and welcomes feedback on the site as well as suggestions for additional species for inclusion.

Australia’s first Sustainable Seafood Week

International non-profit organisation the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) will be highlighting the vital role Australians can play every day to help keep our oceans healthy and teeming with life, with the announcement of Australia’s first ever Sustainable Seafood Week, happening 12-18 March 2018.

MSC, in partnership with Taronga Zoo’s famous Seal Show, will be using the week to highlight the need for consumers to safeguard Australian seafood supplies. By simply opting for seafood products that bear the MSC blue fish tick, Australians will be helping to keep our oceans teeming with life for years to come.

With 95 percent of Australian households purchasing seafood each year, MSC ambassador and celebrity chef, Scott Gooding, says it’s important for consumers to be informed on how to make sustainable seafood choices in order to maintain the health of Australia’s native ocean life.

“Australians consume roughly 19kgs of seafood each year, and it’s only expected to increase in the next decade,” says Scott. “The MSC blue fish tick guarantees consumers are choosing sustainable seafood that safeguards seafood supplies for future generations.”

MSC ambassador, marine scientist and model Laura Wells believes Sustainable Seafood Week will help drive conversation about Australia’s marine habitats and the complex interplay between species, including native Australian sea lions.

“There’s already strong support for protecting the ocean’s food-chain, with 75 percent of Australian seafood consumers believing seafood should only come from sustainable sources to help protect marine species such as our beautiful sea lions and seals,” says Laura.

“They are one of many creatures to be affected by unsustainable fishing, and by purchasing MSC’s blue fish tick, consumers are helping to safeguard meals for seals!”

MSC’s Oceania Program Director, Anne Gabriel says with growing global populations, choosing sustainable seafood is important now more than ever. About one billion people depend on seafood as a primary source of protein, mostly in the developing world. Australians are lucky to have a variety of certified sustainable seafood to choose from to do our part to keep our global oceans healthy.

“We’re proud of the support we have from partners such as Taronga Zoo, to highlight the importance of minimising impacts to sea life such as Australian sea lions and seals through choosing seafood which can be traced back to certified sustainable fisheries,” says Ms Gabriel.

“MSC has set the standard for fisheries across the globe with the world’s most recognised certification program for sustainable, wild caught seafood, ensuring the option is there for consumers to make the right decision to keep their diet, and our native species, forever wild.”

Climate change drives collapse in marine food webs

A new study has found that levels of commercial fish stocks could be harmed as rising sea temperatures affect their source of food.

University of Adelaide scientists have demonstrated how climate change can drive the collapse of marine “food webs”.

Published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, the study’s lead author PhD student, Hadayet Ullah and supervisors Professor Ivan Nagelkerken and Associate Professor Damien Fordham of the University’s Environment Institute, show that increased temperatures reduce the vital flow of energy from the primary food producers at the bottom (e.g. algae), to intermediate consumers (herbivores), to predators at the top of marine food webs.

Such disturbances in energy transfer can potentially lead to a decrease in food availability for top predators, which in turn, can lead to negative impacts for many marine species within these food webs.

“Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide,” said Mr Ullah. “Therefore, it is important to understand how climate change is altering marine food webs in the near future.”

Twelve large 1,600 litre tanks were constructed to mimic predicted conditions of elevated ocean temperature and acidity caused by increasing human greenhouse gas emissions. The tanks harboured a range of species including algae, shrimp, sponges, snails, and fishes.

The mini-food web was maintained under future climate conditions for six months, during which time the researchers measured the survival, growth, biomass, and productivity of all animals and plants, and used these measurements in a sophisticated food web model.

“Whilst climate change increased the productivity of plants, this was mainly due to an expansion of cyanobacteria (small blue-green algae),” said Mr Ullah. “This increased primary productivity does not support food webs, however, because these cyanobacteria are largely unpalatable and they are not consumed by herbivores.”

Understanding how ecosystems function under the effects of global warming is a challenge in ecological research. Most research on ocean warming involves simplified, short-term experiments based on only one or a few species.

“If we are to adequately forecast the impacts of climate change on ocean food webs and fisheries productivity, we need more complex and realistic approaches, that provide more reliable data for sophisticated food web models,” said project leader Professor Nagelkerken.

Marine ecosystems are already experiencing major impacts from global warming, making it vital to better understand how these results can be extrapolated to ecosystems worldwide.

 

Excellence and dedication awarded at National Seafood Industry Awards

Top players in the seafood industry gathered at International Convention Centre for the National Seafood Industry Awards at a Gala Dinner on 28th September 2017. The awards pay homage to excellence in a wide range of categories, celebrating innovation, environmental sustainability and long-term service, as well as excellence in people development and promotions.

In attendance was Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, who assisted with the presentation of the awards.

The Industry Ambassador Award is the evening’s most prestigious award, presented to Tasmanian aquaculture farmers Peter and Una Rockliff for their decades of service and making a significant contribution to the development of Australia’s seafood industry. Their lifetime of work, as a husband and wife team since 1949, has greatly contributed to Tasmania being recognised as a sustainable, innovative and best practice seafood producer.

The award for Excellence in Environmental Practice has become increasingly important for businesses, as seafood lovers are more than ever before interested in sustainable seafood practices and scrutinise the origin of the fish and seafood they buy. This year, Austral Fisheries took out the title in recognition for being the first carbon neutral seafood business in the world.

Austral fisheries operates vessels in Australia’s sub-antarctic fisheries catching Patagonian Toothfish and prawn. All of Austral’s wild-caught seafood is certified sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The hotly contested Best Fish and Chips award underwent a rigorous process to determine the top shop this year. The People’s Choice Awards called upon the public to rally behind their favourite seafood eateries and cast their vote for the nation’s Best Fish and Chips.

Minister Ruston was delighted the search for Australia’s best fish and chips shop had sparked widespread interest.

“The response right across the country has been fantastic, and I want to thank everyone who’s lodged a vote,” Minister Ruston said.

“Australians love their fish and chips, and many of us are very loyal to our favourite fish and chips shop.

“Another great thing about this contest is that it highlights the need to ensure our fisheries are managed sustainably so that future generations of Australians can enjoy a feed of fish and chips from their favourite shop or restaurant, just like we can.”

The People’s choice award took seven months, and over 95,000 votes to whittle down the state winners and national finalists to find the best and most loved fish and chip shop in Australia. Finally the People’s Choice award went to Tasmanian Gourmet Seafoods. The Northern Territory’s Frying Nemo was awarded Best Fish and Chips by the formally judged category.

Safety is a key issue in the industry and recognising the issue in the awards can foster support for safety within the sector. Sydney Fish Market was awarded the Safety Award, for its commitment to ensuring the safety of its customers and workers, having maintained third party safety certification for fourteen consecutive years.

The Young Achiever Award went to Asher Flynn who is Operations Manager of Fremantle Octopus. Asher started his career at the tender age of 14 and has since proved himself a game changer in the industry. He volunteers his time to visit schools educating children about the seafood industry and has executed a successful product development launch for international markets.

Awards for Businesses in the large and small categories went to Humpty Doo Barramundi and Bass Strait Direct respectively. Ocean Grown Abalone won in the Primary Producer category. Spring Bay Seafoods took away the word in the Research, Development and Extension category. Commercial Fishing Operations Skills for Northern Territory Indigenous Communities won in the People Development category.

On the night, nearly 400 guests were treated to a decadent seafood-based menu, in the Grand Ballroom held at the International Convention Centre.

The awards happen in conjunction with Seafood Directions 2017 conference, attended by close to 350 delegates, held at the International Convention Centre from 27th to 29th September.  Seafood Directions is the national seafood industry conference held every two years, travelling from state to state and hosted this year by the New South Wales Seafood Industry Council (NSWSIC).

With the theme ‘Sea the Future’, Seafood Directions 2017 aims to provide a platform for delegates to connect and collaborate with business leaders and those at the forefront of the seafood industry to discuss the current and potential challenges that the industry is facing; and develop the ideas that will pave the way for a sustainable future for all.

Winners of the 2017 National Seafood Industry Awards are:

 

Category

Winner

Young Achiever Award

Asher Flynn

Primary Producer Award

Ocean Grown Abalone

Business (Large) Award

Humpty Doo Barramundi

Business (Small) Award

Bass Strait Direct

Research Development and Extension Award

Spring Bay Seafoods

Environment Award

Austral Fisheries

People Development Award

Commercial Fishing Operations Skills for Northern Territory Indigenous Communities

Promotion Award

Mandurah Licenced Fishermen’s Association

Safety Award

Sydney Fish Market

Restaurant Award

Freycinet Marine Farm

Fish and Chips Award

Frying Nemo

Industry Ambassador Award

Peter and Una Rockliff

Inductees to the Hall of Fame

Annie Jarrett

Grahame Turk

Bill Passey

Barry Evans

Simon Clark

Sime Sarin

Peter Fare

Peter and Una  Rockliff

Leonie Noble

Michael Kailis

Jayne Gallagher

 

 

Conference looks to the future of seafood

Close to 350 delegates from across Australia and abroad will arrive in Sydney this week for Seafood Directions 2017 (SD2017), held at the International Convention Centre from 27th to 29th September.  The national seafood industry conference is held every two years, travelling from state to state and is being hosted this year by the New South Wales Seafood Industry Council (NSWSIC).

With the theme ‘Sea the Future’, SD2017 aims to provide a platform for delegates to connect and collaborate with business leaders and those at the forefront of the seafood industry to discuss the current and potential challenges that the industry is facing; and develop the ideas that will pave the way for a sustainable future for all.

The conference will be opened by Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources who also opened the conference in 2015 when she was first appointed as the minister responsible for commonwealth fisheries.  A highlight in the program is Craig Rispin, Business Futurist and Innovation Expert from The Future Trends Group who will deliver a keynote presentation on What’s on the horizon? Predicting the future of the seafood industry.

The conference program, consisting of an impressive list of fifty speakers, covers various topics relating to the seafood industry including safety, technology, community and consumers, environment and productivity, fisheries policy and management, aquaculture, markets and exports.

Bryan Skepper, NSWSIC and SD2017 chair said “Australian fisheries are recognised as some of the best managed in the world and it is important for our industry to come together at events like this to share ideas and work together to discuss the latest trends and innovation ideas to ensure a sustainable future for the Australian seafood industry.

“Rarely does a conference program cater for all sectors of the seafood industry but with the contributions of industry towards the organisation of Seafood Directions, we’re able to deliver a high calibre event that will provide delegates with a great deal of knowledge and insight” said Skepper.

Beyond the two days of conferencing, delegates are also offered a range of additional activities to take part in, including a pre-conference workshop on Economics for a Competitive Edge, a field trip to Port Stephens to visit the new Huon Kingfish Lease, a networking breakfast hosted by Women’s Industry Network Seafood Community, Sydney Fish Market Behind the Scenes Tours, and a trade show.

Seafood Directions was established in 1999 as a Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) initiative to provide an industry forum for the exchange of ideas, investigation of issues and to facilitate learning from experts, colleagues and associated industries.  SD2017 will be the 10th milestone event and was last held in Sydney in 2005.

 

Predictions for future of seafood industry

Day one of Seafood Directions 2017 was opened with an encouraging address by Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources who welcomed over 350 delegates to the International Convention Centre and set the tone for the two-day conference themed “Sea the Future”.

Minister Ruston declared that Australia’s aquaculture industries are set to double their value to $2 billion following today’s launch of the Federal Government’s National Aquaculture Strategy.  Minister Ruston also launched the Commonwealth Fisheries Policy Statement, committing Australia to further sustainable management and protection of natural marine environments.

Keynote speaker Craig Rispin, Business Futurist for The Future Trends Group utilised his expertise in emerging business, people and technology trends to deliver a presentation on his predictions for the future of the seafood industry.

Rispin predicts that the biggest technological impact on the seafood industry will be the use and reliance on robotics and the influence that Amazon will have on consumer access to seafood and in resolving regional delivery issues of seafood products.

Veronica Papacosta, chair of the newly implemented national peak body Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) announced the key priorities to be addressed by SIA consisting of the improvement of social license and community respect, country of origin labelling in the food service sector, biosecurity, resource allocation and access, seismic testing and a long term surety around access to the Diesel Fuel Rebate for businesses.

Sharing insight from a different area of primary industry, Peter Haydon, general manager marketing for Australian Pork Limited spoke of lessons to be learned from the pork industry and put an offer to the seafood industry to collaborate and share consumer insights to help grow pork and seafood to become Australia’s leading choice of proteins.

Jonathen Arul is the co-founder of Mawio Farms and spoke about the potential of insect derived protein as the future of aquaculture feed.  Arul explained how his company is utilising Black Soldier Flies to turn bio-waste into fish feed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and how important the innovation has been in creating jobs and fueling economic prosperity in the area.

The afternoon program was divided into three sessions covering safety management and gear technology, connecting with community and consumers and the environment and improving fisheries productivity.

Patrick Hone, executive director of Fisheries Research and Development Corporation concluded the first day of the conference summarising the highlights of the day.  Inspired by Nick Bowditch from the Mentoring Club, Hone reflected on the importance of telling the seafood industry’s story and how we have 40,000 years of indigenous fishing seafood culture, rich in tradition to help connect the community with seafood.

Hone also pondered the need to modernise the industry and the opportunity to carbon neutralise the fishing industry in the near future.

This year saw conference live streaming registration offered to allow access to every presentation held in the main conference room.   Day two of the conference can also be accessed via live streaming registration and will have communications links available for questions and interactions with conference panels in live time.

New York Taste for NZ eel growing

Growing demand for New Zealand eel by U.S. consumers has helped increase exports of the fish, particularly to New York according to new figures.

Statistics New Zealand export figures for the industry show sales of eel to North America grew by 115 per cent last year.

Award winning US restaurateur and executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines Chai Chaowasaree (pictured) says while the freshwater fish is not yet a common menu item throughout the country, increasingly eel is found in a more diverse range of restaurants.

“Historically eel or ‘unagi’ has long been a staple in Asian and particularly, Japanese sushi restaurants across North America however now we are seeing it incorporated into other styles of cuisine,” he said.

Chaowasaree says eel in the US is usually smoked, grilled, or stewed; however his favourite recipe is more traditional.

“I like it grilled, topped with Kabayaki Sauce, and served over sushi rice,” says Chaowasaree. He says eel can taste muddy so the smoky and sweet flavours of the Kabayaki sauce helps to mellow the taste.

Brad Matheny, senior director of Hawaiian Airlines cargo division which helps New Zealand exporters deliver thousands of live eels to New York each year says the carrier’s own figures show impressive growth for the niche export.

“The second half of 2016 was particularly strong for Kiwi eel exporters, our figures show eel shipments from New Zealand were up more than 2600% on same period in the year prior – with all of this product delivered to NYC,” he says.

Matheny says offering the fastest widebody service between Auckland and JFK airports has helped Kiwi exporters provide a high quality product to their consumers in New York.

“New Zealand freshwater eels need to be kept at a specific temperature and have a limited shelf life.

“By reducing transit time, we have increased the speed at which we can bring the goods to market and ultimately improving the freshness of the product on arrival,” he says.

More than $584,000 worth of NZ eel was shipped to US wholesalers last year – up from $271,000 in the previous year.

The growth trend for US demand for eel is much higher than the rest of the world which showed a 39 per cent decline in sales in the previous year. North America now takes almost a third of all New Zealand live eel exports – this is up from less than 10 per cent in the previous year.

 

 

Sustainable Seafood Day approaching

Sustainable Seafood Day, an annual initiative by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), will take place on Friday March 31.

Aimed at bringing government, industry, partners, NGOs and all those involved along the supply chain together, Sustainable Seafood Day is a gathering to acknowledge the commitments demonstrated thus far as much as it is a reminder for Australian consumers to do their part to ensure our oceans are teeming with life for generations to come.

According to the Marine Stewardship Council, 85 per cent of Australians purchase seafood regularly, which equates to roughly 27.3kg annually per person and scientists are expecting this consumption to rise to 20 per cent by 2025.

These figures highlight the importance of choosing sustainable seafood to secure the future of our oceans not just for its bio diversity and source of food, but in maintaining livelihoods and socio-economic prosperity for generations to come.

“Australia is certainly a country of seafood and ocean lovers. We are lucky to have vast and beautiful oceans that contain important natural and biological resources. They supply food, play a significant role in determining our climate, and are fundamental to our national identity. By choosing MSC certified seafood, both organisations and consumers are making the best choice for the environment and industry alike,” said Anne Gabriel, MSC Oceania Program Director.

The MSC is an international charity that runs a standard and eco labelling program for wild-capture seafood to help keep ocean’s healthy. Currently, 16 per cent of commercial wild caught seafood in Australia is MSC certified, with more than 20,000 seafood products with the MSC ecolabel around the world.

 

New seafood industry body formed

The National Seafood Industry Alliance (NSIA) has announced the formation of Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), the new peak body for the seafood industry.

In addition, NSIA Chair Johnathan Davey has announced the members of the inaugural SIA board.

The group has seafood industry knowledge and networks across wildcatch, aquaculture and post-harvest sectors, commercial experience in domestic and international markets and are committed to creating a new national body that seafood businesses want to be part of. They include Marshall Betzel, Chauncey Hammond, Dennis Holder, Veronica Papacosta, Mark Ryan, Marcus Stehr, and Belinda Wilson.

The selection of the ‘pro tem’ directors is a critical step in the United Seafood Industries project to form a new peak body to represent the interests of seafood businesses across Australia. It follows the release of a ‘Prospectus’ document in 2016 and widespread industry support including letters of intent valued at $644,460 from close to 100 organisations and individuals.

The next step is for the group to meet, select a chair and then develop the constitution in line with the prospectus and establish the new legal entity.

Anne Ruston, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water, welcomed the formation of the body.

“I am confident that the SIA will be a strong advocate for Australia’s $2.8 billion seafood industry,” she said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with the SIA as it promotes and supports the opportunities for Australia’s world class seafood industry.”

Sustainable seafood trial for Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Three restaurants on Sydney’s Northern Beaches will take part in a pilot project aiming to protect threatened seafood species, marine ecosystems and the fishing industry.

Manly restaurants Ruby Lane, 4 Pines and Manly Ocean Foods have teamed up with Northern Beaches Council and the world-wide Marine Stewardship Council for the Australia-first project which will focus on the certification and labelling of the seafood.

The restaurants have committed to choosing only sustainable fisheries, wholesale suppliers and fish species for their kitchens; and will encourage customers to make the same choices.

Northern Beaches Council general manager Mark Ferguson said the council supports the program because it is committed to helping residents and local businesses live and operate sustainably.

“The ‘Sustainable Seafoods’ pilot program is a great opportunity to help locals make informed, sustainable seafood purchases. It also demonstrates the value and demand for sustainable fishing practices,” he said.

The global Marine Stewardship Council will publicly acknowledge the participating restaurants’ ‘Sustainable Seafoods’ commitment through its independently audited labelling standard and certification process. This process focuses not simply on fish species that are under threat, but takes a whole ‘Chain of Custody’ approach, using an array of auditing techniques that monitor the sustainability of industry processes—from the fishing grounds to the consumer’s plate.

A community engagement component of the program will provide restaurant customers and seafood consumers with authoritative information, helping them make choices about the sustainability of their seafood purchases.

“We hope to eventually roll out the program to as many local seafood restaurants and retailers as possible,” said Ferguson.

While Australian fisheries are generally considered well-managed by international standards, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics many of our fisheries are still considered ‘overfished’ or ‘subject to overfishing’.

World-wide, the situation for fish species is much more dire. According to a 2015 study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London, global stocks of fish such as mackerel and tuna declined by around 74 percent between 1970 and 2010.