Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says customers at restaurants and fish and chip shops would know exactly where their seafood came from, if proposed changes to country of origin labelling laws were adopted.
Currently, the food services sector is exempt from displaying the origin of seafood on menus.
A Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport handed down a recommendation last month calling for that exemption to be removed, subject to a transition period of up to 12 months.
Mr Chester said country of origin labelling would support the Lakes Entrance commercial fishing industry, which competed against cheaper imported seafood from places like Vietnam and Indonesia.
“Many of us would expect the seafood on our menus to be caught locally, however there is currently no way of distinguishing the Australian product from the imports,” Mr Chester said.
“The Senate committee found that in some cases, people are willing to pay slightly more for their seafood if they know the catch is from Australian waters.
“This suggests that if the country of origin labelling changes were implemented, there would be an incentive for restaurants and food outlets to promote fish caught locally by Lakes Entrance commercial fishermen.”
Mr Chester said country of origin labelling information was already available to food services outlets.
“The information about where the seafood comes from is already supplied to the restaurant backdoor. We want to see this information passed on to the menu,” Mr Chester said.
Mr Chester said the Senate committee report followed a similar recommendation in October by a House of Representatives committee on country of origin labelling.
Both committee findings showed the seafood industry warranted extra focus.
“More than 70 per cent of Australian seafood is imported, which means our locally-caught seafood doesn’t face the same challenges as other local proteins such as lamb and beef,” Mr Chester said.
“This is why the seafood industry demands special attention to protect the sustainability of our domestic industry.”
Mr Chester he would continue to support the Lakes Entrance fishing industry and lobby his colleagues for the implementation of country of origin labelling.