What fish are you eating? Matthew Evans calls for accurate seafood labelling

What sort of fish is it? Where and how was it caught or farmed?  These are the questions that you should be asking and receiving accurate answers to, each time you buy or order seafood.

Walk into your local seafood shop and you'll often find there's little detail on the fish, prawns or crabs for sale, particularly if it's the 'special of the day' or ubiquitous 'reef fish'.  Likewise at your local cafe and restaurant you'll often find extensive details on the beef and even lamb, but little information on the fish available. 

"Without laws requiring accurate labelling, Queenslanders, not surprisingly, end up buying imported, cheaper seafood over local produce, without recognising the choice they're making," says Tasmanian farmer, chef and author Matthew Evans.

Serving up locally caught sustainable fish straight off the barbecue for the Brisbane launch of the Label My Fish Alliance was Richard Webb, chef and former owner of Brisbane's Swampdog Fish & Chips.

"Things move pretty quickly in the restaurant sector," says Webb. "Since I opened Swampdog three years ago, customers are showing more interest in where their food comes from.  But how is it I can walk into a pub and be told exactly where the beef comes from, but for most of the time I wouldn't be able to find out even what species of fish is on offer?

Alarmingly, according to Greenpeace we now eat double the amount of seafood we ate in 1975, about 370,000 square tonnes but about 70 per cent of that is imported.

"Some of that seafood is okay, but much of it comes at an environmental cost, or is tied to unacceptable labour practices," says Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle.

If you don't know what this means take a look at What's the Catch, Evan's recently aired three part television series on SBS which examines the issue.

Local fisherman John Page spoke about the waste involved in old fishing techniques and how the industry has changed to be sustainable.

"We fish in Moreton Bay and we can get fish from the bay tot he restaurant door within an hour and a half. It's the freshest seafood you could want. We want the public to know that what they're buying comes from right off our coastline and is caught in a way that doesn't harm the environment. Without better labelling laws, there's no way for us to tell people that," says John.

"If you want to give local fishers like me a fair go, then we need better labelling laws."

It was great to see leading local restaurateurs David Pugh of Restaurant Two and Jose Lopez from GOMA at the launch. Other Queensland supporters of  Label My Fish include Wasabi, Mondo Organics, Stokehouse Restaurant, Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association and Samies Fresh Seafood Market.
A Senate inquiry into Seafood labelling is underway with a report due on December 4.  Visit Labelmyfish.com for more information.

Kerry Heaney