Coasts and Oceans Theme Report

Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06751 5

Fisheries (continued)

Seafood quality [CO Indicator 4.4]

Seafood quality in Australia is crucial to maintaining a competitive advantage for the fish export industry in the future. An issue is the concentration of heavy metals that may be accumulated through the food chain and reach high levels in long-lived fish such as sharks and Orange Roughy. But most important is the lack of pathogens in wild-caught fish and the high quality of our post-harvest handling procedures that maintain the quality of the seafood until it reaches consumers.

Seafood quality may be a significant issue in Indigenous fisheries owing to the high proportion of seafood in their diet, particularly for Torres Strait Islanders.

On a national scale, the residue levels in some wild fish species are monitored through the National Residue Survey (NRS 1998), which is designed to ensure that requirements for export certification are met.

Seafood products, in particular shellfish, have the potential to cause serious outbreaks of food poisoning due to contamination from either biotoxins or pathogens. There have been several incidents where bivalve shellfish have been contaminated with sewage effluent or biotoxins from algal blooms. In 1997, over 400 people in New South Wales were infected with hepatitis A after eating oysters grown in Wallis Lake and one man died as a result (Caton and McLoughlin 2000). The contamination was caused by poorly treated sewage entering the lake.

The Australian Shellfish Sanitation Control Program was developed in 1998 and aims to minimise the risk of harvesting contaminated shellfish through regular monitoring for possible contamination by toxic algae, microbes, antibiotics, hormones and toxins. State and Territory-based shellfish quality assurance programs support this program.