Media Release Sustainable Seafood

Wild caught Queensland prawns off the sustainable seafood menu

April 12, 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) today announced updates to Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, a consumer guide for choosing seafood that doesn’t harm our oceans, produced in response to public demand.

This update sees more of Queensland’s wild caught seafood added to the red (‘Say No’) list due to the impact their capture has on our oceans. Prawns, bugs and scallops caught in trawl fisheries join a suite of other Queensland seafood already topping the list of high risk seafood caught in Australia.

The good news is that some fisheries and seafood farmed in QLD continue to provide sustainably produced seafood for people who love their seafood but are concerned about its impact on our seas. Farmed Queensland barramundi and prawns are given a green ‘Better Choice’ listing in the Guide.

Tooni Mahto, Fisheries and Threatened Species Campaign Manager at the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said, “The Australian public increasingly expects their seafood to be caught without a high cost to our marine wildlife. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case with some Queensland fisheries at the moment.

“We expect that fisheries management will improve to lessen the impact of fishing on our oceans over time. But what our research shows is that some Queensland fisheries are still hamstrung by the Newman Government-era cuts to fisheries resources, and are struggling to reach the levels of sustainability expected by the community.

“QLD fisheries catch seafood in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is home to some of Australia’s most fragile and endangered marine wildlife. Most Australians would be horrified to know that their seafood has been caught in fisheries that drown snubfin and humpback dolphins, dugongs, seahorses or turtles.

“The broad fisheries reform package driven and led by the Palaszczuk Government and some sectors of the fishing industry should deliver the necessary changes to reduce the impact of fishing on our oceans.

“We look forward to reflecting those future changes in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide, and delivering those assessments to the tens of thousands of Australians that use it to inform their selection at the seafood counter.”


The Good News

Ms Mahto said, “Queensland’s aquaculture industry continues to provide sustainably produced seafood to the public through its leadership in innovation and stewardship of our coastal environment.

Fish farms in Queensland provide the majority of barramundi available for sale in Australia, as well as a high proportion of our farmed prawns. The updated Guide also features a new, green-listed farmed fish called cobia.

John Molony from the prawn farming company Pacific Reef Fisheries said, “We’re proud to be delivering sustainable farmed prawns to the Australian community. We know we farm in a pretty special place, and have responsibilities to the Great Barrier Reef. To that end, we’ve invested in technology to improve the quality of water leaving our farms and reduced our dependence on wild caught fish to feed our fish and prawns”.

“We have also invested in expanding the range of farmed seafood, adding cobia to our production”.

Ms Mahto continued, “Sustainable fisheries are in the best interests of our oceans, our fishing industry and our community. Some sectors of the Queensland fishing industry have recognised that and are driving forward with sustainability initiatives of their own accord”.

Another good news story in Queensland fisheries is the tunnel net fishers in Moreton Bay who catch yellowfin bream, sea mullet and tailor. Fishers have independently developed a code of conduct to improve this low-impact fishing method.

John Page, a tunnel netter from Moreton Bay says, “We fish in Moreton Bay. We can get fish from the Bay to the restaurant door within an hour and a half – 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 sustainable a way under an Environmental Management System and Code of Best Practice that eliminates the bycatch in our fishery.

“We have worked hard to eliminate the environmental footprint of our fishery in Moreton Bay. Reform of fisheries in Queensland is urgently needed to protect our industry, protect the environment and let the public know about what we’re doing”.

Ms Mahto concluded, “The Queensland Government and some sectors of the fishing industry have some hard work to do to win the support of Australians concerned about treading lightly on our oceans. Fortunately, improvements to fisheries management through the current Fisheries Reform process should support the transformation from being high risk fisheries to being sustainable, market-leading tropical fisheries.


Further information:

To arrange interviews with Tooni Mahto, John Molony and John Page, contact AMCS Communications Manager Ingrid Neilson, 0421 972 731.


Background information:

  1. Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide was first published by the Australian Marine Conservation Society in 2004, and is available online and as a free app. It is produced in response to public demand for independent, credible and scientifically based information on the sustainability of seafood available for sale in Australia. The Guide covers farmed and wild caught seafood from Australia as well as imported product.
  2. Wild caught barramundi and king and blue threadfin are on the Red ‘Say No’ list due to concerns over the impact of fishing with gillnets on endangered wildlife, including snubfin dolphins, dugongs and turtles. Ongoing Snubfin dolphin and dugong deaths were confirmed in late 2017.
  3. Snubfin and humpback dolphins are highly vulnerable to capture in gillnets. In 2017 the conservation status of snubfin dolphins was up-listed into a higher threat category of Vulnerable by the IUCN, placing them one step closer to extinction.
  4. Wild caught eastern king, endeavour, banana, tiger and bay prawns as well as Moreton Bay and Balmain Bugs and saucer scallops have been added to the Red ‘Say No’ list , due to concerns over historically poor management of the trawl fishery in which they are caught, capture of threatened wildlife and impact to the overall health of our oceans.
  5. Saucer scallop stocks have crashed to around 5-6% of historical levels in recent years.
  6. Coral trout and tropical snappers are rated amber due to concerns over the impact of fishing to the marine environment.
  7. Sea mullet, tailor, dusky flathead, whiting and bream caught using low impact netting methods in Moreton Bay are green-listed
  8. The Queensland Government has committed to a decade of fishery reforms, starting with the most high risk fisheries. AMCS actively supports this process. Consideration of how to reform the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (ECIFFF) and East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (ECOT) is underway. These two fisheries provide the bulk of wild caught prawns, scallops, barramundi and threadfin to the market.
  9. For an understanding of the process used to assess fisheries to produce the Guide, see here.
  10. AMCS will be adding further updates in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide over the course of 2018.