Defining “sustainable” fish: industry and NGOs meet

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 23rd May 2011

Key members of the Australian seafood industry and environmental NGOs have come together at the Seafood Services Australia Network Meeting, held at Sydney Fish Market last week, to discuss the need for clearer definitions and terminology, and increased community engagement on sustainability.

“The issue we face is that there are many varied definitions and complex terminology relating to sustainability. There are also many eco-labels for seafood around the world – each with different criteria. In addition, contradictions currently exist between industry and conservation groups about which fisheries are sustainable. It’s very confusing for the consumer,” said Grahame Turk, managing director of the Sydney Fish Market.

While this presents a large task for all parties involved, Mr Turk said he was encouraged by the willingness of all stakeholders in the industry, including individual and chain retailers, processors, fishers and environmental groups to work together to create greater understanding and transparency on sustainability.

Phil MacMullen, Head of Environmental Responsibility for Seafish Industry Authority in the United Kingdom (UK), was a visiting keynote speaker at the event. MacMullen highlighted the importance of common language and co-management by a range of industry stakeholders in providing transparency and gaining the confidence of consumers.

“What’s particularly important is the effective communication of evidence-based arguments. Along with that, is transparency – and a willingness to be held to account for what you do, ” MacMullen said.

Increasing demand for Australian seafood and growing concern for the sustainability of seafood were central to discussion throughout the event. Key outcomes from the meeting were plans to develop a common language initiative and look at sustainability labelling for Australian seafood products.

”This meeting has strengthened relationships throughout the industry and has provided a strong foundation to work together in arming consumers with the information they need in an easy to understand format,” said Turk.

The one-day forum was chaired by Dr Patrick Hone, Executive Director of the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, with other speakers including Duncan Leadbitter from Fish Matter and Professor Robert Kearney from the University of Canberra.