- We do not know the origins of most of our seafood in Australia
- New research shows technology exists to improve traceability, but some key industry players are resistant
- Australia needs better traceability and labelling requirements so consumers know exactly what they are buying
The Australian Government must step in to increase traceability and transparency requirements for the seafood industry to protect consumers, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said after new research showed unwillingness from some in the industry.
AMCS Fair Catch Campaign Manager Dr Cat Dorey said: “Australians do not have enough information about the seafood we are buying because there is simply not enough transparency in the supply chain, and new research indicates that some wholesalers seem to want to keep it that way.”
Research recently published by Monash University shows that powerful traceability technology such as blockchain is available, but some central supply chain actors such as wholesalers may see this as a threat to their competitive advantage.
One of the researchers interviewed many actors in the Victorian seafood industry supply chain and found reports of an outdated industry with a completely unbalanced system of power and reports of rife seafood fraud.
Currently, wholesalers and ‘middle-men’ are able to control the market, dictating prices for both fishers and consumers. Fishers and producers told the researcher they are unable to track their own products as they “lose control of the supply chain” with “no idea where they go”.
Once traceability is lost, wholesalers can charge more when people don’t know what exactly they’re buying and how it’s caught.
Some interviewees in the research explained how they were only able to catch these instances of food fraud due to their own fishing experience and knowledge, with one fisher stating, “I’ve looked at them, and I know that they’re not King George whiting that have come from Corner Inlet … they say, ‘Corner Inlet whiting’ but they’re not, they’ve been caught far offshore by a trawler.” Those without such an extensive knowledge are left in the dark about the true origins of their dinner.
This lack of traceability and transparency in our seafood market is all the more concerning because we are not asking enough questions at our national borders, such as how and where the seafood was caught. Without rules or standards on imported seafood, Australia is wide open to seafood from illegal, destructive and exploitative fisheries and farms.
AMCS Fair Catch Campaign Manager Dr Cat Dorey said: “This study provides further evidence of the need for the Australian Government to improve traceability and transparency across the seafood supply chain, including tightening up import controls to ensure we are protecting consumers from eating untraceable and potentially illegal and unethical seafood.
“Without better seafood traceability, import standards and labelling, it is challenging for everyday Aussies to choose seafood from sustainable and ethical sources.
“The government’s election commitment to consider a framework that addresses the importation of seafood from fisheries that involve illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices will be critical to help ensure the needed transformation of this industry.”