With Your Fish and Chips Order, You May Be Unknowingly Consuming an Endangered Species

fish and chips

Making the active decision to protect the environment should be a no-brainer by 2021, with all the educational resources and increasingly, knowledge of how to protect the planet at our fingertips. 

Although many of us are taking the necessary steps to think and live sustainably, we need to look beyond the obvious, and into products we wouldn’t assume to be unsustainable.

One of these is Flake. Flake is the yummy, soft, white fish that is usually the staple fish and chips protein, delicious both battered and grilled. On fish and chip menus, it’s often the most popular and the most affordable. But do we really know where it comes from?

You may have seen glimpses of a recent campaign; #GiveFlakeABreak, headed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, which aims to shine a light on a widely unknown loophole that affects the regulations around how fish is caught.

As Melbourne chef Ben Shewry explains in an opinion piece for Broadsheet, “If you order flake from a fish’n’chip shop you should be getting gummy shark, but because of a loophole in Australia’s national environment laws, endangered shark species are caught side-by-side with gummy shark in unsustainable numbers – so it’s impossible to know what you’re receiving.”

And according to the piece, our Australian labelling laws mean fish and chip shops aren’t actually required to accurately list the fish species and where they came from either. “That means it’s the responsibility of cooks and fishmongers to tell diners the truth about what they are eating – just as it’s important for diners to use this information to make a better choice,” Shewry writes. 

Give Flake a Break’s research has shown more than 13,000 endangered sharks have been caught and sold since 2018, so it’s absolutely a problem, and one that needs a solution.

You have to ask yourself, can I 100% trust that I’m being told the truth? There are some amazing local, family-owned fish and chipperies all across Australia, that have been serving loyal customers for decades and we aren’t accusing them of telling fibs.

But by pointing out these loopholes in Australian law, it highlights the thought process that is needed for sustainable consumption, which is to always ask the question of: where did this product come from?

How to help

It’s unlikely we’ll stop ordering fish and chips. It’s one of the most comforting and damn right delicious delicacies of Australian cuisine. What we can do, however, is be more sustainably-minded and purchase with a purpose; to indulge your taste buds and be good to our environment.

The main solution to this problem, highlighted in the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s #GiveFlakeABreak campaign, encourages seafood lovers to take a break from ordering flake, and to choose a sustainable alternative. They suggest dusky flathead as an affordable and sustainable alternative, as well as silver perch and tailor fish as delicious and underappreciated options. 

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