Media Release16 Jun 2023

Seafood country of origin labelling reforms a step forward but falls short of adequate consumer protection

The recent discussion paper released by the Dept. of Industry, Science and Resources is a step in the right direction to improve standards for labelling seafood in our restaurants, but it is not nearly enough to address the reality of illegal or unethical seafood ending up on the plates of consumers.

FCA Wrapped Fish
Photo Credit: Henrik Sorensen via Getty Images.

The Fair Catch Alliance – a diverse alliance across seafood industry, conservation and human rights organisations and led by the Minderoo Foundation – is calling for the introduction of seafood import controls, with significant improvements to traceability and transparency, that will help close the door to seafood produced using illegal, undesirable and exploitative practises.

A collaboration of groups across industry and conservation have delivered a submission to the consultation saying that while they are supportive of measures to improve Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) in restaurants, the current scope of the CoOL consultation falls far short of the kind of action required to improve traceability and transparency, prevent undesirable seafood products from entering the country, and provide seafood buyers with enough information to make an informed choice.

Emily Harrison, Governance and Policy Manager for the Minderoo Foundation, says that “an estimated 65% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported from overseas; however, there is currently no legislative framework to ensure imported products meet legal, sustainability or ethical production standards.

“Australians should have the confidence of the same rules being applied for all seafood. All seafood must have to meet sustainability and ethical standards, even if it is imported. Australia should establish seafood import controls to ensure we have confidence that we know what products are and where they come from. Everyone deserves to know exactly what they are buying.

“Recent polling conducted by the Fair Catch Alliance has shown that over 90% of Australians are concerned about illegal, unsustainable and unethical seafood with 74% saying the problem is worse than they expected. 92% believe it is important that imported seafood meets the same standards as local seafood.

The undersigned organisations are calling on the Albanese government and the Parliament to engage closely with the emerging consensus for reform of imports. This investigation must be broadened to include the design and implementation of a staged and comprehensive reform program that assists overseas fisheries improve practices and raises the standards of seafood imports to Australia.

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