Endangered fish still being dished up

24th September 2020 | Eativity editors

Marine conservationists have found that threatened and endangered fish species are ending up on our dinner plates in Australia. This follows a University of Queensland study which highlighted that endangered species continue to be fished in oceans around the world, despite being threatened with extinction.

Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) Sustainable Seafood Program Manager Adrian Meder says that sadly, critically endangered fish species like blue warehou, scalloped hammerhead and school sharks are among the species either still fished in Australian waters or imported from abroad, and then being served to unwitting seafood lovers.

Endangered fish still being dished up
The blue warehou is often mislabelled as trevally.

Failed plans and missing labels

“This study highlights the huge problem with accurately tracing the seafood served up to us in restaurants and fish and chip shops here in Australia,” Meder says. “When you order seafood to eat, there’s no law for the restaurant to accurately label where it’s from or what it is. That information can be difficult for a restaurateur to obtain. This greatly impacts your ability to make informed, sustainable choices.”

According to Medier, more effective environmental laws could fix the issue in Australia. “Why would we import critically endangered fish species to eat at all?” he says. “There are so many sustainable local alternatives, caught by Australians who could use the support.”

As an example, our environmental laws list the blue warehou as “conservation dependent”. This means it can still be fished, despite the fact that it’s critically endangered. There have been two recovery plans. But neither appears to have resulted in any recovery of their stocks. The catch and sale of these fish continues.

“We need recovery plans under the EPBC [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation] Act,” Meder says. “We need targets which are monitored and actually met before this species can be fished again.”

Endangered fish still being dished up
What’s really in your fish and chips?

Ask for sustainable

Critically endangered fish species such as the school shark are being imported from South Africa. Australian fish and chip shops sell them as flake.

“The study highlighted that some species are critically endangered, just like the rhino,” Meder says. “And we wouldn’t hunt, trade and consume these so openly, as we do with marine creatures. I reckon Australian seafood lovers would be horrified to think they were eating seafood in the same category of conservation concern as a rhino. Particularly when there are so many sustainable options available to them.”

Meder says Australians should refer to AMCS’s sustainable seafood guide GoodFish. This can help you make more sustainable seafood choices at home, in restaurants and at the fish and chip shop. “And if a better choice is not on offer, ask them to get some in,” he says.

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