Something fishy?

This is the first guest post in a 3-part guide for fish lovers by fishing expert Ben Caddaye.

Ben has been fishing for more than 35 years and writing about it for 20. He's a feature writer for Fishing World magazine and has been a columnist for Canberra's Chronicle newspaper since 2005.

So you’ve just purchased a couple of juicy fillets of snapper from your local supermarket or fishmonger.

They cost you $50 a kilo, but it’s worth it, right? I mean, snapper are a blue- ribbon table fish. You’re getting your money’s worth…or are you?

Aaron (from Three Lads Wine) with a kingfish caught off the South Coast

Aaron (from Three Lads Wine) with a kingfish caught off the South Coast

How do you know the fillets you’ve just shelled out for are, in fact, snapper? Do you know what snapper fillets look like? Do you know what a whole snapper looks like?

If you don’t, you’re probably not alone. I’d wager most consumers of seafood couldn’t tell the difference between a snapper fillet and a piece of ling, gemfish or blue eye trevalla.

Eating fish on ice

Eating fish on ice

And the picture becomes even murkier when you’re ordering cooked seafood at a restaurant or fish and chip shop.

Melbourne fish and chip cafe Hunky Dory recently found itself in hot water when it was alleged its ‘fish of the day’ dory was actually a Vietnamese freshwater catfish known as ‘basa’. 

If this is true, it’s little surprise. Would you know if the piece of cooked fish in your burger or alongside your chips was actually what it was marketed as?

The term ‘dory’ alone is confusing. Do you know what dory is? There are nearly a dozen different species of fish in Australian waters that are recognised as ‘dory’. The most sought after of these is the John dory – a fine table fish which commands high prices restaurants.

Mirror Dory

Mirror Dory

But I can almost guarantee that your humble serve of fish and chips will never contain John dory!

All this leads me to an important point.

For a nation boasting more than 25,000 km of coastline, we’re treated pretty poorly when it comes to buying seafood.

Consumers have a right to know what fish they’re buying and where it was caught.

We should be able to go to our nearest fish shop and be 100 per cent certain that what we’ve paid for is, in fact, what we’re getting.

But that’s not the case. And it won’t be the case until there are more uniform regulations in place for correctly marketing and labeling seafood.

A recently announced NSW Government proposal to overhaul the labelling of seafood is a good start.

The proposal will mean consumers purchasing seafood in NSW will have more clarity about the source of the fish or crustaceans they’re buying.

Currently, a whopping 85 per cent of seafood purchased in NSW is imported – and consumers have a right to know that.

The proposal is designed to help the NSW seafood promote locally sourced products all the way through to diners’ menus.

Let’s hope the standards continue to improve to a point where people paying top dollar for a fillet of sought after Aussie table fish can no longer be served a bottom-dwelling catfish from a muddy lake in Vietnam!

For more guests posts from Ben Caddaye, check out these links: