SIA hits back at irresponsible media reporting

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), the Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA) and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) have hit back at inflammatory media reporting and irresponsible statements made News Corp Australia/Courier Mail, journalist Jackie Sinnerton.

The statements made were in regard to Australian fish-stocks, the use of threatened or endangered species in fish and chips, and seafood labelling requirements.

In the article, titled “Salt and vinegar with your jellyfish and chips?” the Courier Mail journalist incorrectly reported that ‘Fishing for species that are threatened with extinction is legal and seafood does not have to be labelled according to species.’

It also stated that, the fish ‘flake’ or ‘cod’ that Australians typically order at the fish and chip shop could be critically endangered.

Seafood Industry Australia CEO, Veronica Papacosta, said both of these claims are categorically incorrect and could be considered defamatory of the Australian seafood industry.

“First and foremost, you cannot sell seafood, or any food for that matter, in retail without clearly labelling what it is. End of story.

“Furthermore, the trade of threatened, endangered or protected (TEP) species is illegal in Australia. It is absurd and irresponsible to suggest otherwise. Fishing for TEP species in Australia is against the law, and hefty fines apply for targeting these species. In the event there is a TEP interaction it must be documented and reported to the appropriate authority, primarily the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). In Australia, boats operating in fisheries at-risk of TEP interaction are often required to have independent observers onboard and/or video documentation of their catch, among other methods of recording,” she said.

SIA’s reply also noted that the Australian seafood industry has routinely petitioned for an expansion of the 2016 Country of Origin Labelling requirements to cover the foodservice sector, but this is simply to clarify country of origin, not species information.

“In addition, species information must be readily available for both consumers and foodservice for food safety and in the event of a product recall,” Ms Papacosta said.

“If a TEP species is caught overseas, legally or not, it is illegal to export it to Australia. Despite the Courier Mail journalist’s claims, it is incredibly unlikely a protected species would end up on an Australian plate, much less in the batter at your local fish and chip shop.

“The Australian fishing industry doesn’t want to see protected species harmed. Our data is public, available via and We aim to be as open and transparent as possible, and our efforts to reduce interactions with protected species is ongoing. We are at the forefront of applying technology and equipment to minimise interactions with protected species.

“Australia’s fisheries are some of the best managed in the world. The Fisheries Status Reports 2019 released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics has shown that no Commonwealth-managed fisheries were subject to overfishing for the sixth consecutive year. This is something our commercial fishers are very proud of, and is unprecedented internationally. While the footprint of Australia’s trawlers is one of the smallest in the world.

“Australia has a world-class network of marine parks which have been designed to help conserve marine habitats and eco-systems. We have the second largest network in the world, which covers 36 per cent of our oceans. Well above the international ‘Aichi target’ of 10 per cent by 2020. Combined with our aquaculture sector – who provide fresh, high-quality seafood, year-round – Australian seafood is one of the best managed and most sustainable protein sources in the world.

“These poorly researched claims and unsubstantiated attack on Australia’s sustainable, well-managed fisheries are causing unprecedented stresses on our fishers, who, according to research, experience twice the base-rate of psychological stress than the base population. Significant contributing factors to these mental health issues are the ongoing attacks on our professional fishers that threaten their livelihood and resource access,” Ms Papacosta added.
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Following the publication of the original story, Seafood Industry Australia contacted News Corporation to outline the facts.
NewsCorp has since admitted to lazy reporting and are running a balancing positive piece to position an accurate message.