Mending the Net: Strengthening Australia’s import policies to combat illegally produced seafood

Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing is one of the most critical challenges for achieving sustainable fisheries. This includes illicit and unsustainable fishing practices, as well as human and worker rights violations on fishing vessels and in seafood processing and packaging facilities.

Australia has shown strong leadership to combat illegal fishing within its own waters and across the Asia Pacific region. This includes adopting measures to prevent, deter and detect illegal fishing within Australian waters – as well as preventing illegal operators from landing catches at Australian ports.

However, we are far behind our peers – in particular, the United States and the European Union – in terms of keeping illegally produced seafood out of the Australian market.

Our Mending the Net report calls for regulations to ensure imported seafood sold in Australia complies with the same sustainability and labour standards as locally sourced seafood. Stronger controls would require an imported product to demonstrate the product was legally produced prior to import, and establish a verified traceability and labelling scheme that covers all aspects of the supply chain, from harvest to plate.

The report reviews Australia’s current policies and legislation on seafood importation, traceability and labelling and identifies clear gaps that allow illegal seafood to enter the Australian market.

Urgent action needs to be taken by the Australian government to enforce a level playing field that ensures the same standards are applied to the seafood we import, as the seafood we catch in our own waters.

Key report findings

  1. Traceability of imported seafood products is incredibly limited. Australia consistently collects only two of the twenty-two pieces of information that need to be captured to provide harvest-to-plate traceability.
  2. Australia lacks a targeted seafood import policy to ensure legality. Instead, it relies on a patchwork of legislation focused on food safety and biosecurity.
  3. Australia’s seafood labelling system is incomplete. Outside of the Northern Territory, seafood sold in restaurants and cafés is exempt from ‘country of origin’ labelling.
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Current reporting status of key data elements needed to prevent importation of illegal seafood into Australia

How you can help

  1. Choose sustainable seafood: Ask what your seafood is, where it comes from, how it was produced – and only purchase seafood when you can clearly identify it is from well-managed and sustainable fisheries.
  1. Join the cause: Sign up to our mailing list to stay updated, learn how you can support tougher seafood import controls in Australia, and spread the word to your network.

Roundtable

Watch the ‘Mending the Net’ dialogue event, where we discuss recent research and opportunities for reform.

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Stay informed

Join our mailing list to learn how you can support tougher seafood import controls in Australia.

Improving Australia’s seafood import controls

This report is part of a Flourishing Oceans project ensuring the seafood we import into Australia is legally, sustainably and responsibly produced.