There are three questions every Australian should ask about the seafood they buy or eat in restaurants.

Australians love seafood and we eat 370,000 square tonnes every year, but it’s time we were making an informed choice about what we are consuming says Tasmanian farmer, chef and author Matthew Evans.

Evans is supporting the Label My Fish Alliance which is seeking laws like those in the EU which require labelling when seafood is sold. Clearer labelling in fish shops, cafes and restaurants will help protect the environment, support sustainable Australian fishers and protect public health says Evans.

What do you need to know about your seafood? The questions are:

  1. What is the species? So you know it’s from a healthy fish population.
  2. Where was it caught? Knowing the origin means you can select fish from places with good management.
  3. How was it caught or farmed? This will help you judge the impact on the wider environment.

“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 Evans.

Also at the launch was Richard Webb, chef and former owner of Brisbane’s Swampdog Fish & Chips, who has been a champion of sustainable seafood in Brisbane.

“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?

According to Greenpeace, we now eat double the amount of seafood we ate in 1975, about 370,000 square tonnes a year but about 70 per cent of that is imported. Under current legal requirements for labelling, seafood sellers don’t have to tell us very much at all about where it comes from.

“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 want to give local fishers like me a fair go, then we need better labelling laws,” says local fisherman John Page.

“We fish in Moreton Bay and we can get fish from the bay to the 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.

Find out more about fish labelling and the Federal government inquiry due on December 4 at Label My Fish Alliance. For more background take a look at What’s the Catch, Evan’s recently aired three part television series on SBS which examines the issue.