6 October 2011
Keywords:  imported, industry, priority, seafood, species, consumer, retail

Imports have been reported as providing about 60 to 75% of current seafood supply in Australia, the importance varying according to the source. But reliable information on the make-up of much of this seafood has not been available, because of, inter alia, the limited detail and quantity of data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the Australian Fisheries Statistics annual report prepared the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Moreover some statistics on very important species/products such as basa are not collated by Australian Customs because the species do not have an international tariff classification code number. This lack of national statistical data has been responsible for much of the confusion and uncertainty about the role basa and barramundi imports play in Australia.

There is no reliable detailed picture of the types of edible imports, the nature of their distribution chain in Australia, nor their contribution to trade and consumption. The seafood industry has hardly noticed the strong growth of the canned seafood category and how it matches the total volume of fresh and frozen fish imports.

Consequently industry, government agencies and researchers in the fisheries, food, public health and quarantine field have had to rely on incomplete and often unreliable information; this means their decision making and priority setting has been sub optimal.

This study was initiated to overcome the absence of a detailed reliable picture of what happens to imported seafood in this country and to identify what accurate data on Australia’s imports are available here or obtainable from overseas sources.