Experts say broadening our nets could help seafood sustainability

Experts say broadening our nets could help seafood sustainability

Just a fraction of the 5,000 seafood species make it from the ocean to dinner plates, but experts say broadening our nets could help seafood sustainability while keeping the weekly food budget in check.

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries senior fisheries manager Luke Pearce told ABC Radio Melbourne that while carp had a bad name, the fish could find some love in the kitchen.

Carp are one of the worst introduced pests in Australia and have negative effects on water quality and biodiversity, according to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

They have a negative impact on our environment and they've caused so many problems in our river system, Mr Pearce said.

There was a notion that carp made bad eating and that put people off.

There are a few things you have to do first. Carp would be safe to eat if you ate any other fish from the water source, like in the water at a sewerage treatment plant, according to Mr Pearce.

If you ate a trout or a golden perch or a cod from the same waterway, a carp would be fine to eat from it, he said.

Pearce said that tackling the fish's flavour was something to keep in mind.

When under stress, carp produce histamines that create an odour and its distinctive muddy taste.

Slippery mucus on the fish's body tarnished carp's eating reputation, but Mr Pearce said the solution was skinning.

He said that once you skin your fish, that mucus is gone and you've got a really nice clean, fresh and tasty fillet of fish that you can do a lot of things with.

A $15.2 million carp control plan is being developed with the aim of slashing numbers of the invasive species using a herpes virus, but Mr Pearce said there was still a push for people to see the fish as a protein alternative.

Carp are being turned into fertiliser but they're consuming all these resources that take away from our native fish and the more we can take out, he said.

Neil Murray, co-founder of Lake Bolac Eel Festival, lives in Jupagalk Country in south-west Victoria and has been involved in an annual eel harvest for nearly two decades.

Mr Murry said First Nations people would gather at Lake Bolac in the late summer as the eels began their annual migration to the ocean to spawn, known as the Kuyang season.

He said that the eel was the most favoured fish of the First Nations people.

It is highly nutritious, very abundant and easy to catch. While the industry was still fairly lucrative, most of the catch was frozen for export.

I like it freshly grilled over coals and I usually cut it into sections about four-inches long and let the oil drip out of it, he said.

University of Melbourne marine and fisheries ecologist John Ford said of the species that fishers caught, only a few made it to retail giants.

The fish you see on supermarket shelves, the ones already in demand, are going to get more expensive, according to Dr Ford.

The ocean can't give us any more fish than it is right now, and as the population grows, demand grows. That meant looking at eating lower-quality products, like fish meal, a product made from wild-caught fish and by-products.

He said there was a major reason lesser-known products weren't at the shops.

Consumers would have to feel comfortable cooking an unfamiliar product.

He said that while Australia's supermarket duopoly would make a shake up, future collaboration with peak fishing bodies could shore up seafood's future.