End Australia's fishy seafood labelling

Australians love our seafood, but our seafood labelling is outdated and unfit for purpose.

Aussies love our seafood, not only for its value as a healthy protein, but also as a further connection to our oceans. Unfortunately, our current seafood labelling laws mean you can’t even be sure what fish you’re eating, let alone where it came from or how it was caught.

Aussies expect quality seafood that is sustainable and ethical, and right now, there’s just no way to tell. We’re calling on the Australian government to fix our fishy labelling laws, so you know what’s on your plate.

End fishy labelling

As our last major wild food industry, seafood has a much more complex supply chain than other industries. This means that traceability must be robust and all the way through to the label for confidence in its provenance and sustainability. 

Compared to other globally traded goods, seafood has a high species diversity, and those species can be incredibly difficult to visually identify. This makes seafood highly susceptible to mislabelling.  Without crucial details like what you’re eating, where and how it was caught, Aussies are choosing their seafood blindfolded. Simple, specific, and accurate labelling is essential.


A mockup of a box of frozen hoki fillets, shown to display the fish name, scientific name, area of catch, and catch method.

A mockup of what seafood labelling should look like. Simple, specific, and accurate.


Australian labels must be specific and accurate. For Australians to feel confident in their purchasing decisions, all seafood products sold in retailers (e.g. supermarkets, fishmongers, and fish counters) in Australia must include:

  1. A common name as dictated by the Australian Fish Names Standard, ideally accompanied by an accurate scientific name.
  2. Point of Capture. If harvested in Australia, it must display the state or territory. If harvested in another country’s or international waters, it must display that country’s name or the FAO Major Fishing Area Code. Farmed products should display either the country they were originally farmed in or, if Australian, the state or territory.
  3. Whether the product was wild-caught or farmed, and the gear type used in fishing as described in the FAO Standard Gear Types. Farmed products may voluntarily display the farm type.
  4. Exporting country or country where a majority of processing occurred (if relevant).

Seafood sold through hospitality must also be updated to include:

  1. A common name as dictated by the Australian Fish Names Standard
  2. Whether it is Australian (A), Imported (I), or Mixed (M), and if Australian;
  3. The state or territory of the original harvest.


Major issues with current labelling

Research suggests that at least 1 in 10 seafood products in Australia are mislabelled, even accounting for vague names like “white fish” or “flake”. It’s almost impossible to visually identify a fish when filleted or processed, so you’d never know that your freshly caught snapper is really flathead.

Most people know fish by their common names, so it’s important that when you get to the seafood counter they mean something.

Australia currently has a fish names standard, a document that outlines exactly which species can be described by certain names.

18 years since its introduction, however, this standard is still voluntary. This means that there is technically no ‘correct’ name for fish to be sold under.

A mandatory Australian Fish Names Standard is a first and major step towards reliable seafood labelling. Ideally, this correct common name is also accompanied by the scientific names of all species present in the product.

Think 'country of origin' tells you where your fish was caught? Think again. In Australia, it could just be where it was processed or packaged. That’s not on, Aussies deserve to know where our seafood really comes from.

Any seafood product sold in a retail environment must clearly display a ‘country of origin’. Despite the name, this is usually not where the product was originally caught or harvested.

For imported seafood (which makes up 65% of what we eat), retailers only have to describe where the product was made, produced, or grown. This can mean:

  1. Where the product 'substantially increased in size by natural development’
  2. Where the product undergoes substantial change or transformation
  3. Where almost all of the processing occurred

For seafood, this makes it unlikely to represent where it was originally caught or harvested. This is critical information not only for sustainability, but also preventing the sale of products of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

As global demand for seafood rises past what wild stocks can sustainably produce, aquaculture is fast overtaking wild caught seafood. Despite this, Australian seafood labels still do not require products to declare if they were caught from the wild, or farmed.

Much like wild-caught seafood, aquaculture can be sustainable or unsustainable. This primarily depends on its dependance on wild stocks (through feed) and its impacts on the environment.

Though complex, farmed seafood is fundamentally different from wild-caught and consumers should be aware from which they are purchasing.

In Australia, hospitality venues are exempt from displaying country of origin. Last year, this was updated to the system previously used by the Northern Territory.

In this system, venues must mark whether a product is Australian (A), imported (I), or of mixed (M) origins.

Though a welcome first step, this is still far from the information necessary for consumers to feel confident when purchasing seafood.

Seafood sold through hospitality must be updated to include:

  1. A common name as dictated by the Australian Fish Names Standard
  2. Whether it is Australian (A), Imported (I), or Mixed (M), and if Australian;
  3. The state or territory of the original harvest.

Australians keep sustainability front-of-mind when purchasing seafood, and are willing to pay 35% more for sustainable seafood. It is deeply concerning that our laws currently do not do enough for sustainable fishers and farmers, allowing them to be undercut by those with cheaper, more destructive methods.

By knowing what your fish is, as well as where and how your fish is caught or farmed, you can make more informed decisions and choose to support sustainable, lighter touch seafood.

By identifying and preferencing those using less damaging methods, catching from healthy stocks, consumer power incentivises the industry as a whole to move forward.

Photo by Nick Fletcher.

Australia is decades behind

In 2015, the European Union increased their labelling requirements to include specific catch areas, and fishing gear type on top of the already required origin, and species. The EU is currently the second largest seafood market in the world and have fully transitioned to this new system.

Australia is decades behind, and risks becoming a dumping ground for dodgy seafood that doesn’t have the necessary traceability.

Aussies deserve to be able to choose sustainable, ethically sourced, delicious seafood – and know that they’re getting what they pay for.

It’s time for Australia to fix our fishy labelling laws, for consumers, for industry, and for our oceans.



  1. Cundy, M.E., Santana-Garcon, J., McLennan, A.G., Ayad, M.E., Bayer, P.E., Cooper, M., Corrigan, S., Harrison, E. and Wilcox, C. (2023). Seafood label quality and mislabelling rates hamper consumer choices for sustainability in Australia. Scientific Reports, [online] 13(1), p.10146. doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-37066-4.
  2. European Commission and Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (2023). The EU fish market: 2023 edition. [online] Publications Office of the European Union. doi:https://doi.org/doi/10.2771/716731.